A mother's phone call to police regarding a string of suspicious text messages on her teenager's phone resulted in felony charges against two individuals for soliciting a minor to distribute drugs, according to criminal complaints filed in St. Croix County Circuit Court.
Ann Marie Ratliff, 35, New Richmond, and Nicholas Luke Bard, 27, Ellsworth, were charged with using a child to manufacture/distribute/deliver drugs as party to a crime for attempting to involve teenagers known to Ratliff in the sale of marijuana, court records show. Ratliff, who was living in Baldwin at the time, also was charged with misdemeanor possession of THC, the complaint states.
On Jan. 24 in Pierce County, court records show Bard was charged with felony possession of THC with intent to distribute and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.
According to the criminal complaint:
River Falls police received a phone call Dec. 7, 2018, from a mother in regards to a text message conversation she found on her 14-year-old son's phone between her son and his friend's mother Ann Ratliff, in which they discussed how much money they should charge for a bag of marijuana.
The boy told police he had purchased marijuana from Ratliff before and that his friend had sold marijuana in the past. His mother told police she found nothing illegal during a search of his room.
Officers made contact with Ratliff at her residence in Baldwin where they found approximately 20 grams of marijuana along with a metal pipe. Ratliff denied knowledge of the drugs' existence and offered her son as the one who possibly put the stash inside her suitcase.
A preliminary search of her phone turned up a conversation from Nov. 29, 2018, with a contact named "Nick." At the time, both were employed at Nolato Contour in Baldwin and police were able to confirm through the employer that "Nick" was Nicholas Bard.
The conversation read:
"Nick: What did you son come up with, for the green.
Ann: He hasn't yet. It's still chilling in our room cuz I did't want him taking it to school with him. I think he has a couple people that want to pick up but we gotta coordinate getting it to river falls.
Nick: Lol ok well when that gone let me know I want to se how much he gets that small amount."
Ratliff's phone was downloaded and searched by authorities, which turned up more conversations with Bard as well as conversations between her and minors regarding drugs.
In another conversation between Ratliff and Bard from Nov. 28, 2018, discovered by police after a download of Ratliff's phone, Bard asked if she was OK with her son wanting to help him sell marijuana.
The conversation, in part:
"Nick: if I grab a half pound know anyone who will buy by o's
Ann: my mini me is my hook up for buyers and he said he knows couple that might but most of his people only buy about $20-$30 worth at a time
Nick: Hmm does he want a part time job if it cool with you
Ann: this high (expletive) (expletive) just force fed me hunny straight from the bear!
Nick: Lmfao wow he high as (expletive)
Ann: he sure is. Also, he would love a part time job and I'm totally ok with it"
Ratliff later identified her "mini me" as a son.
Ratliff initially denied allegations that she purchased marijuana from Bard or that he wanted her to help him sell drugs, but changed her story when informed authorities had extensively searched her phone.
She said Bard suggested that she have "the boys sell through the high school."
Police made contact with Bard as he exited his home Dec. 14, 2018. He was carrying a canister containing two separate bags of marijuana with a total weight of about 176 grams.
Bard was on active parole for third-degree sexual assault, felony theft from a corpse and was registered as a sex offender at the time and had prior convictions for criminal damage to property, criminal trespass to dwelling, felony bail jumping and disorderly conduct.
The felony child distribution charge carries a maximum sentence of 12 years, six months in prison and a $25,000 fine. Ratliff's misdemeanor possession charge is punishable by up to six months jail time and a $1,000 fine.
Ratliff made her initial appearance in court Jan. 23 and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Feb. 1. A warrant for Bard's arrest was issued Jan. 22.