LIKE POLICE, PARENTS SHOCKED BY EXTENT OF WOOD COUNTY DRUG CASE
WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. - Parents are reeling at news that investigators expect to charge 158 people in a Wood County drug case that allegedly included parents selling illegal drugs to their children's friends.
Sue Ulrich, of Rudolph, has children in the seventh and 10th grades in the Wisconsin Rapids school system and said it was difficult to believe parents would sell drugs to children.
Just as surprising to Debbie Wood was the apparent extent of the drug network in Wisconsin Rapids, where she has lived for four years since moving from Kenosha. She said she might have expected something like it in southeastern Wisconsin, but not here.
The Wood County Sheriff's Department began arresting people Monday, and 17 had made initial court appearances by Wednesday.
Thirteen more defendants made initial appearances Thursday afternoon, and Circuit Judge Greg Potter set signature bonds for them. That raised the total who had been in court to 30.
Two of the defendants were charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. According to criminal complaints, the couple had been involving a 15-year-old boy in selling marijuana.
Sheriff Thomas Reichert said the department will likely finish with the arrests in the next week.
He said the apparent cases of parents selling to friends of their children was "certainly one of the most appalling and disturbing aspects of this case."
Wisconsin Rapids School Superintendent Dean Ryerson had a similar reaction.
"It tells me there's a huge community problem that needs to be addressed," he said.
The arrests followed 15 months of investigation by the sheriff's department and other local law enforcement agencies.
"This is, by far, the largest drug bust in the history of our county," Reichert said. "I don't recall anything even close to this as far as the number of defendants and charges that came from this case. It's really unprecedented in central Wisconsin."
The case could result in 617 criminal charges, according to the sheriff's department.
Though the 158 people don't all know each other, the investigation revealed a network of people selling drugs, Reichert said.
"There was certainly the framework in place for people to make calls to locate somebody with the drugs the buyer wanted," he said.
According to Reichert, the investigation showed drugs were made available to undercover officers almost every time they made an inquiry to buy.
Investigators said they recovered more than *****in marijuana, plus cocaine, methamphetamines, Ecstasy, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms and a variety of other controlled substances.
The Central Wisconsin Drug Task Force received funding for the undercover investigations from the state Office of Justice Assistance.