Police crack $1.6 million 'pot-growing' ring

Henry County Police officials expect to make additional arrests in an ongoing investigation that has, so far, uncovered more than $1.6 million in drugs. County officers, joining forces with federal narcotics agents, made six arrests in the investigation, and uncovered 50 weapons, ranging from hand guns to assault rifles.

"I was very impressed with how they worked this case, and the thoroughness...," said Henry County Police Chief Keith Nichols. "My hat's off to them."

Narcotics agents had been investigating several locations as a result of information obtained from two previous search warrants executed at homes in McDonough and Stockbridge, on Nov. 3, according to Police Maj. Jason Bolton. Three arrests were made in the November case, which resulted in the seizure of 144 marijuana plants, two vehicles, five weapons, and more than $6,000 in cash.

Bolton added that, on Dec. 8, police were joined special agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration's Mobile Enforcement Teams, or DEA MET teams, to execute three search warrants at other residences and businesses in the area.

"Evidence and information obtained during these searches [on Dec. 8] enabled agents to obtain five additional search warrants that were then executed," said Bolton.

The Henry County Police major reported a total of 10 search warrants, and six arrests, at area residences and businesses from the Dec. 8 raids, which turned up drugs, firearms, and some $374,000 in cash.

Stockbridge residents Josh McCullough, 36, and Danielle McCullough, 33, were arrested at their business, Backwoods Bar and Grill, located at 2220 Jodeco Road in McDonough. Bolton said marijuana growing materials were found at the location, where police seized less than an ounce of marijuana, methamphetamine, $400 cash and an Isuzu Box Truck.

The married couple, he added, was charged with manufacturing marijuana, and possession of a firearm, during a crime. Additionally, Josh McCullough was charged with possession of methamphetamine.

Bolton said Anthony Brent Sholar, 39, of McDonough, was charged with parole violation, in addition to being charged with manufacturing marijuana associated with the residence located at 270 Pullin Road in McDonough, where police retrieved 119 marijuana plants and $1,160 in cash.

Police claimed more than 200 other marijuana plants from residences in the Stockbridge area. They reported 109 plants, and packaging materials, were discovered at 1680 Jodeco Road, while 93 plants and about four pounds of packaged marijuana were found at 436 Hood Road.

Police also arrested McDonough residents Kelli Brown, 37, and Joseph Franklin Tillman III, 41. Each was charged with manufacturing marijuana, trafficking marijuana, and possession of methamphetamine.

Thirty-six-year-old Paul Howard Bunch III, of Stockbridge, has been arrested and charged with possession of a Schedule IV (controlled substance), possession of ecstasy, possession of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), possession of methamphetamine, manufacturing marijuana, and trafficking marijuana.

Bolton noted four pounds of packaged marijuana were seized from Bunch's residence at 1850 Flatrock Road in Stockbridge. Police also confiscated 67 dosage units of hydrocodone, 19 dosage units of ecstasy, 5 grams of methamphetamine, 12 dosage units of LSD, 85.5 dosage units of soma (muscle relaxant), a 2002 Chevrolet Silverado, a 2003 Honda CBR F1, a 2009 Big Dog Chopper motorcycle, a 2004 Pontiac GTO, $374,000 in cash, and 28 weapons.

"We are trying to determine ownership of the weapons," explained Bolton. I'm told today [Friday] at least one is reported stolen. I do anticipate additional charges in the near future once we are able to sort it all out."

Bolton acknowledged 22 weapons were taken from the residence, at 445 Hood Road in Stockbridge, along with less than an ounce of marijuana, four all terrain vehicles, and a 2004 GMC Yukon.

At 1686 Jodeco Road in Stockbridge, police said they uncovered less than an ounce of marijuana, methamphetamine, a 2010 GMC Sierra 2500 and a 1997 Lincoln Town Car.

As with this week's arrests, the alleged crimes are believed to be intertwined in a "continuing criminal enterprise," according to Police Maj. Joe Jackson, Henry's criminal investigations division commander.

Marijuana grow operations, Jackson added, were uncovered at three different Stockbridge locations — at 436 Hood Road, 445 Hood Road and 1680 Jodeco Road. He said the operations, found in spare rooms and basements, utilized a sophisticated growing method called hydroponics. The method uses minerals and water, rather than soil, to stimulate plant growth.

The marijuana products seized this week carry a street value of $1,625,000, said Jackson.

Police said they confiscated documents related to the investigation, from two Stockbridge residences, at 1828 Flatrock Road and 445 Hood Road, and at businesses located in Suite A and Suite B of 1396 Commerce Drive in Stockbridge. Old South Amusement and JSCJ Manufacturing and Distributing were the two businesses respectively named the police.