Rico Montrell Reid

Rico Montrell Reid. Berkeley County Sheriff's Office/Provided

For two years, authorities bided their time, slowly building a case against a Berkeley County man they believed was holding a neighborhood captive through an illegal trade of drugs and guns. 

Federal, state and local agencies celebrated Thursday as that man, 41-year-old Rico Reid, was handed a 20-year federal prison sentence.

The sentencing came after Reid pleaded guilty Jan. 16 to three federal counts: using and carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime; possessing heroin with intent to distribute; and being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to court documents. He originally faced nine counts, and he will spend three years under supervised release after he serves his sentence. 

For Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis, Reid's punishment was the latest payoff after a lengthy operation to stem criminal activity in an unincorporated community near Goose Creek in 2016 and 2017 — activity that was spearheaded by Reid.

"I'm doing my best to move drugs and crime (out of the community)," Lewis said Friday.

Reid's downfall came swiftly after authorities served search warrants in the Rutt Lane community on June 22, 2017, arresting 27 people. The following day, authorities named Reid as their main suspect.

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Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis speaks at a press conference on Friday, June 23, 2017 about a two-year drug and weapons investigation in the Goose Creek area. Gregory Yee/Staff

He was arrested June 26. 

Lewis said he's spoken with several residents off Howe Hall Road who said the arrests have improved their quality of life. 

"They saw a very positive ... crime reduction," the sheriff said. "There's been a decrease in the level of street drug dealing."

There are still calls to respond to crimes in that area, but the call volume has dropped significantly since Reid and the 27 others were arrested last year, Lewis said.

While operations like the sweep involving Reid generally involve mostly lower-level offenses, the sheriff said even those smaller arrests continue to have a marked impact, pointing to a two-day operation that netted 59 arrests on April 26 and 27.

"The call volume in those areas is drastically reduced," Lewis said. "(The severity of charge) doesn't matter. You will make an impact."

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.