Local Agencies Tout Drug Round Up a Success
HENDERSON COUNTY, Tenn.- Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies arrested 11 suspects in Henderson, Decatur, Benton and Madison Counties on federal drug trafficking violations.
Captain Jeff Middleton, Lexington police dept. told WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News that it's taken more than a year to gather the evidence needed to take down the multi- county drug operation that was distributing some of the purest forms of Meth, known as "ice" across West Tennessee.
"We were dealing with an organization that was in 4 separate counties operating. One agency by themselves could not have taken them down," said Capt. Middleton.
The indictments were returned by a federal grand jury in Jackson February 19, 2013, but were kept sealed until Thursday's arrests.
Officers from federal, state and local came together and arrested Thomas Arnold, 46, Monica Bruce, 37, from Benton county. Jerry Evans, 69 Teresa McCoy, 43, Billie Pearcy, 68, and Bruce Rosson were arrested from Decatur county. Jason Blackstock, 30 Peggy Gullett, 46, James Nolan,47 and Freddy Webb were apprehended from Henderson County and Karen Pepper,37 was arrested from Madison County. Charges in the indictments stem from the illegal activity of possessing and distributing methamphetamine, a schedule II controlled substance.
"Since tighter border control, we started seeing more meth labs locally, it's still being imported and we have a lot of meth labs now so its a double edged sword,"said Sheriff Brian Duke,Henderson County. "The problem is being able to reach the suppliers really on a local level we are only able to address the problem by arresting users and small dealers."
Duke said in the past taking down operations that distribute the drug has been a challenge because local agencies work within each county's boundaries. The year long investigation to break down the meth operation included the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, FBI Memphis, Jackson Resident Agency, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Henderson County Sheriff's Department, Lexington Police Department and 24Th Judicial district drug talk force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistance United States Attorney Matt Wilson on behalf of the government. Officials said making the arrests on a federal level is vital in crippling the drug's supply operation.
"Criminals understand if they are convicted at the state level the chances of them doing long term jail time aren't very good. If they are a first time offender, but at the federal level they can carry as much as 20 years even without a prior conviction," said Middleton. "That's a deterrent."
Middleton said suspects who were arrested with a prior felony drug trafficking conviction could face up to 30 years imprisonment. Middleton having law enforcement work together as a region is the first of many collective steps to end the war on drugs.
"This is just the beginning of the way law enforcement agencies in this region with work, this is just an example. It's the only way, working collectively we are going to combat this kind of problem," said Middleton.
In addition to narcotics, money and drug paraphernalia, at least 10 firearms were also seized including handguns and long guns. Officials said the charges and allegations contained in the indictments are merely accusations and the defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty.