On March 13, the Marietta-Cobb-Smyrna unit, a secretive unit that works undercover to investigate organized crime and the illegal drug trade, initiated the first raid at 9:45 a.m.
The MCS Unit entered the home on Forest Hill Road, north of Richard D. Sailors Parkway, and arrested five men and two women, mostly from Powder Springs.
Brian Benedik, Ashley Caudle, Jesse Bailey, Jason Bailey and Jennifer Jostmeyer, all of Powder Springs, David Morris of Hiram and Jennifer Brook of Marietta will face a range of charges, including possession of methamphetamine, sale of dangerous drugs, reckless conduct, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and parole violation.
According to the warrant, Benedik arranged by telephone “two sales of crystal methamphetamine to an undercover MCS agent for 4.3 grams and 14.1 grams of methamphetamine.”
Inside the home, the police found 10.7 grams of suspected methamphetamine, packaged in four separate baggies close to a digital scale, $200 in forged money and 19 tapentadol pills and a narcotic pain reliever in an unmarked bottle, the warrant said.
There were also “two charged syringes containing suspected methamphetamine within arm’s reach” of two children, the warrant stated.
By Wednesday morning, nearly a week after the arrests, most of the suspects remained in the Cobb jail. Brook was released Tuesday on a $3,000 bond.
Twelve hours later, at 10 p.m. on March 13, the MCS Unit executed a second search warrant at an address on Muirwood Place, south of Hiram Lithia Springs Road.
In the bedroom of Zachary Haynes of Powder Springs and Jessica Chapman of Dallas were 30 marijuana plants under grow lights with an exhaust fan, according to the warrant. A loaded shotgun reportedly leaned against a wall behind the door.
Both Haynes and Chapman were arrested on charges of manufacturing marijuana, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony and intent to distribute.
In another couple’s bedroom, police found 49.8 grams of suspected marijuana with scales and baggies, the warrant said.
Brandi Carmon and Lucas Haynes, both of Powder Springs, were arrested on felony charges of intent to distribute.
All four suspects have been released from the Cobb jail on bond.
The manpower, money behind the MCS Unit
The MCS Unit was formed in 1980 by the Cobb County Sheriff’s office, which makes it the longest-standing police joint taskforce in Georgia, according to Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds.
Reynolds said the county sheriff and police chiefs from all six cities in Cobb meet together to discuss the taskforce’s role in investigating large cases, which cross over jurisdictional lines.
Powder Springs and Austell are the only cities without police officers serving on the squad in the field. Reynolds would not reveal how many officers serve on the MCS Unit.
Reynolds is the chairman of the board that oversees the MCS Unit, and the District Attorney’s office has two prosecutors assigned only to MCS Unit cases.
“They are available to MCS day and night,” Reynolds said about the assistant district attorneys who go out on the drug busts to give legal advice at the scene. “They are literally boots-on-the-ground prosecutors.”
After a bust by the MCS Unit, officers are able to seize cash and property, such as vehicles, jewelry and even homes, linked to the illegal activity from the crime scene.
“They have to have some level of probable cause,” Reynolds said.
Once assets are seized, the next step is to file a suit with a Superior Court judge, who will decide if the property can be seized under Georgia’s civil asset forfeiture law. Sometimes a seizure is made under federal laws.
The civil forfeiture cases, which are separate from the criminal case and do not require a conviction, can take up to six months for a court ruling, Reynolds said.
Reynolds said his office must feel confident the link between the crime and the property can be proved, or they will not take possession of the items.
The forfeiture money is distributed among all the enforcement agencies of the MCS Unit by the board.
Meaning, “Smyrna would benefit from a case seized in Kennesaw,” Reynolds said.
Over the last 15 to 16 months, the MCS fund has grown close to $1.9 million. Reynolds said when the amount reaches $2 million there will be another distribution to the contributing jurisdictions.