Braceville officer arrested in heroin probe


WARREN — A Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department corrections officer who is also a Braceville Township police officer was charged Friday in the ongoing investigation of heroin distribution in Trumbull County.

Ryan Freeman, 30, of 2631 Front St., was taken into custody at his home by officers of the Trumbull-Ashtabula-Geauga Law Enforcement Task Force and charged with unauthorized use of the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway, a fifth-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a third-degree felony. He is jailed, but information on his bond and when he will be arraigned was not available Friday.

The Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway is a secure, Web-based platform that provides real-time information to law enforcement agencies about identity theft, sex offenders and missing children. Through OHLEG, law enforcement agencies can share information to better prevent and solve crimes. Use of OHLEG is limited to law enforcement officers and officials.

The TAG investigation revealed that Freeman had searched records similar to those searched by task-force agents with the intent of discovering what TAG investigators were looking at. It also revealed that Freeman had searched the records of two law-enforcement officers, one from the task force and one from the Warren Police Department, officials said.

Using a search warrant, TAG investigators removed from Freeman’s home a computer, monitor, desktop printer and a boost mobile phone. They also confiscated uniform items, a police radio, identification cards and keys, all property of Braceville Township, and a Glock firearm, property of the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department, according to TAG.

The ongoing drug-distribution investigation also included searches last weekend at addresses on Wallace Street and Walnut Court in Warren after surveillance was conducted on the properties.

While at the Wallace address, TAG agents began to follow a 1996 Oldsmobile north into the city. The vehicle’s occupants, Frederick D. Johnson, 39, and Brandy L. Purbaugh, 26, became suspicious, driving at high rates of speed and committing numerous traffic violations, including driving through the rear yard of a residence on Porter Street, TAG agents said.

At that point, task force agents asked for help from Warren police to stop the vehicle. After several more minutes of erratic driving, the occupants of the Oldsmobile stopped, got out of the car and ran in different directions. TAG and Warren police pursued them on foot but were not able to apprehend them immediately.

A Warren police dog tracked the suspects to near Belvedere Street, and in the backyard of a residence on Hazelwood police recovered a brown bag containing 419 grams of heroin. With the assistance of witnesses, investigators also recovered about 4 ounces of powder cocaine, located in two locations in the front yard of residences on Chestnut Street. Also, a Glock semiautomatic firearm and holster were recovered in the snow on Hazelwood.

Investigators also searched the Wallace Street home, where they recovered $1,250, a .22-caliber and a .38-caliber handguns, a Glock firearms box, .40-caliber ammunition and miscellaneous paperwork.

Later that evening, police said they received information that Purbaugh was hiding at an Atlantic Street address, where they found and arrested her and took her to the Trumbull County Justice Center.

On Wednesday, a review of telephone calls from the jail revealed that Purbaugh had contacted a friend about paying her bond to get her out of jail and asked the friend to bring $8,000, left at the friend’s house on Atlantic on Jan. 15, to pay the bonding company.

The bondsman refused to release the money to police, who returned Thursday with a seizure order for the contraband.

Witness statements said the money was taken by Purbaugh from the drug proceeds of Fred Johnson, who surrendered to parole authorities in Liberty on Wednesday and is in jail.

TAG’s investigation into the heroin problem in the Warren area and all the Detroit connections began in September and is ongoing, officials said.

TAG is a multicounty major crimes unit that focuses on drug and firearm traffickers, gangs and homeland security.

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