Agents of the Hancock County Sheriff's Office Narcotics division on Thursday raided what they called an "extensive" drug operation at Rotten Bayou that may have been selling illicit substances to area high school students.
"Hancock County Narcotics Agents arrested 34-year-old Matthew John Ford late last night after execution of a search warrant resulted in the recovery of an extensive marijuana growing operation, live marijuana plants and several ounces of processed marijuana, over 200 THC vape cartridges, multiple quantities of blotter and liquid LSD, and items of processing, consumption, and distribution," Narcotics and Special Operations Division Cmdr. Bill Covington said in a press release .
"Deputies initially went to the residence in the 17000 block of Rotten Bayou Road to attempt to serve an arrest warrant on Mr. Ford for misdemeanor domestic violence.," Covington said. "Upon arrival, deputies noticed a strong odor of raw marijuana and notified narcotics agents. Agents obtained and executed the search warrant."
Covington said narcotics agents had recently been investigating information about the source of fruit-flavored THC vaping devices and other marijuana products being supplied to students at Hancock High School.
"The amount of full-packaged vape cartridges, each over 90 percent pure THC, is consistent with a large volume of distribution," Covington said. "And the particular characteristics of these vape devices is consistent with information about the type of products finding their way into the hands of students."
Covington said Ford was booked into the Hancock County Jail on felony charges of Trafficking Controlled Substance, THC Concentrate; Possession With Intent to Distribute Controlled Substance, Marijuana; and Possession With Intent to Distribute Controlled Substance, LSD. Jail records show Ford is also charged with aggravated assault -- domestic violence; and simple assault.
Ford also has multiple prior felony charges for controlled substance crimes, Covington said.
Bond was due to be set by a Hancock County Justice Court judge some time on Friday afternoon.
Also arrested at the scene were Mitchell Stephen Ford, 66; and Stacey E. Ford, 60. Jail records show they were charged with one count each of felony possession of a controlled substance.
“I am very happy we were able to take this large amount of drugs out of circulation in Hancock County," Sheriff Ricky Adam said in the release. "If it was the source of what’s been winding up in the hands of our high school kids, then that makes it one of our most important drug cases in quite some time. We will continue to use every available resource to combat drugs in this county, and especially where children and young adults are placed at risk.”
Parents are encouraged to be on the lookout for vaping devices, and "not to assume they are ok," Covington said. "Many of these products, which are nearly pure THC, have smells like fruit or candy and do not have any odor typical of marijuana being smoked. The potency of this THC concentrate makes it exceptionally dangerous, especially to an inexperienced marijuana user."
Covington also stressed that "There is no evidence at this time that suggests any criminal activity on the premises of, or otherwise related in any way to, Hancock High School, or any other specific school. The reference to the one particular school was included only because some anonymous tips mentioning unidentified students of that school were found to be consistent with physical evidence recovered in this case.
"No further correlation or connection beyond that is implied or alleged. It is the position of this office that all parents of school-age children, regardless of school and/or district, should be alerted to the potential danger of these products."
Covington said the investigation will continue and further charges and arrests in the case are possible.