Photo by Angela Yingling
Sullivan County, TN -- Federal, state and local authorities say they've stopped a major drug trafficking ring.
A federal grand jury in East Tennessee has indicted 23 people in a drug trafficking case that prosecutors say also reached into southwest Virginia, Michigan and Florida.
Agents started making arrests Wednesday and the defendants were still appearing Thursday before a federal magistrate in Greeneville. They are charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute oxycodone, cocaine and marijuana.
The indictment shows the arrests stem from a long-term investigation and the allegations in some instances date back to 1998.
"This is one of the biggest operations we've had in Wise County because we've had more than 70 people that will be arrested. I think we only arrested 60 yesterday. We know where the others are and we'll be arresting them shortly," said Sheriff Ronnie Oakes, Wise County, Va.
A statement from U.S. Attorney Bill Killian's office Thursday said the case involves numerous law enforcement agencies.
Authorities said those charged were selling oxycodone, cocaine and marijuana and that 23 people were involved. Thirteen defendants are from Tennessee, six are from Virginia and two from Florida and Michigan.
They're all charged with conspiracy and possession of drugs for resale.
Wise County authorities said this is the final chapter of Operation Street Sweeper. It was a drug investigation began in 2004. Over 500 people have been arrested on drug charges in that investigation.
Those arrested include:
Nekia Dwayne Clark, 35 years old, Big Stone Gap, VA
Alan Vaughn Crews, 37 years old, Centerville, VA
Justin Colby Vaughn, 36, Del Ray Beach, FL
Curtis Louis Prior, Jr, 35 Kingsport, TN
Antwain Dwayne Hollinger, 27, Big Stone Gap, VA
Adrian Jamal Cornette, 27, Wise County, VA
Mose Devaughn White, 34, Johnson City, TN
Duvale Pruitt, 37, Kingsport, TN
Stephen Anthony Graham, 25, Johnson City, TN
Stacy Montague White, 39, Kingsport, TN
Keira Lashawn Moore, 29, Big Stone Gap, VA
Cedric D'Andre Mitchell, 22, Big Stone Gap, VA
Rodney Alan Mitchell, 32, Kingsport, TN
Jennifer Mitchell, 38, Kingsport, TN
Rachel Goad, 34, Kingsport, TN
Lloyd James Stede, Jr., 34, Detroit, Michigan
Gilbert Miller, 42, Kingsport, TN
James Howard Poole, Jr., 39, Kingsport, TN
Maurice William Gravely, 40, Johnson City, TN
Jarian Hamler, 31, Jonesoborough, TN
Joshua Clark Martin, 29, Kingsport, TN
Shawn James Banks, 40, Detroit, Michigan
Marquis Cornelius Taylor, 37, Miami Florida
Near decade long investigation leads to break-up of trafficking ring
A near decade long investigation leads to huge drug bust
By Bill Christian
Published: May 19, 2011
SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. -- Federal and local law enforcement called it operation "Street Sweeper" when--a little more than an hour ago--they revealed the results of an almost decade long investigation.
At around 10:30 a.m. federal and local law enforcement summoned the media to the Sullivan County Courthouse.
There 11Connects learned about a tangled web of drug traffickers that first had its base of operations in Big Stone Gap, Va. and then moved its hub to Sullivan County, Tenn.
The main drugs being sold were oxycodone, cocaine and marijuana.
A stunning number of people have been arrested so far--more than 500 over a period of eight or nine years.
Investigators say more arrests are possible so they're tight-lipped about some specifics of how the drug ring worked. However, they are confident the work so far has significantly crippled the pipeline of drugs in the Tri-Cities.
A federal grand jury in Greeneville, Tenn., returned a four-count indictment on May 11 charging the 23 defendants with conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute oxycodone, cocaine, and marijuana.
Federal, state, and local law enforcement agents, executed those arrest warrants early yesterday morning and took into custody several defendants indicted for being involved in the oxycodone, cocaine and marijuana trafficking organization which was operating in north east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, Michigan, and Florida.
Those apprehended made their initial appearance in Greeneville, Tenn., before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis H. Inman.
If convicted, those defendants charged in the oxycodone conspiracy face a term of not more
than 20 years in prison, a fine of $1,000,000.00, and a term of supervised release of at least three years.
Those defendants charged in the cocaine conspiracy face a minimum mandatory term of 10 years to life in prison, a fine of $4,000,000.00, and a term of supervised release of at least five years.
Those defendants charged in the marijuana conspiracy face a term not more than five years in prison, a fine of $250,000.00, and a term of supervised release of at least two years.
Text derived from a Department of Justice press release.
23 people, including Sullivan Central teacher, indicted in alleged drug trafficking organization
By Rain Smith
Published May 19th, 2011 | Added May 19th, 2011 12:34 pm
A long-term drug investigation by federal, state and local agencies has prompted federal indictments against 23 individuals in four states — including a teacher at Sullivan Central High School in Blountville.
The indictments were announced at a Thursday morning press conference at the Sullivan County Justice Center. Present were officials from about a dozen law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation, with U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee Bill Killian addressing the media.
He stated that on May 11 a federal grand jury in Greeneville returned four-count indictments against 23 individuals allegedly involved in a drug trafficking organization. They reportedly operated in Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Michigan and Florida.
Killian said they possessed and distributed oxycodone, cocaine and marijuana, but declined to comment on specifics of the case at this stage of prosecution.They have all been served with warrants and made their initial court appearance.
An additional 70 individuals in Sullivan County, Tenn., and Wise County, Va., have also been charged through the investigation.
One of the individuals indicted is identified as Jennifer Mitchell, 38, of Kingsport, Tenn. Sullivan County Schools Human Resources Supervisor Larry Hall confirmed Mitchell is a Consumer Science teacher at Sullivan Central High School, employed since 2002.
Hall declined further comment, saying school board officials have not been provided any facts of the criminal investigation.
Killian praised the combined efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies working the case, saying the indictments prove criminals cannot cross state or county lines to avoid detection.
He categorized the investigation as "long-tem" but declined to say which suspects or locales were the impetus. He said some aspects of the case began in 1998, with other major pieces coming together in 2003 and 2007.
An integral part of the indictments appears to be "Operation Street Sweeper," a seven-year investigation launched by the Southwest Virginia Multi-Jurisdiction Narcotics Task Force. According to the Wise County Commonwealth Attorney's Office, more than 500 people have been arrested in the investigation. It reportedly began in Big Stone Gap before leading to Sullivan County, sweeping in multiple other agencies in the process.
Agencies involved in indictments announced Thursday include the Tennessee 2nd Judicial Drug Task Force, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Southwest Virginia Task Force, Kingsport Police, Sullivan County Sheriff's Office, Bristol Tennessee Police, Johnson City Police, Washington County Sheriff's Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division.
U.S. Attorneys Robert M. Reeves and Zachary T. Lee will prosecute the 23 individuals indicted. Sullivan County District Attorney Greeley Wells and Wise County Virginia Commonwealth Attorney Ronald Elkins are handling charges against the approximately 70 additional individuals charged through investigation.