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Despite three federal cases and dozens of arrests, meth still flowing into Hawkins

Jeff Bobo • Jul 18, 2019 at 8:30 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office, in cooperation with state and federal authorities, has conducted three separate meth trafficking investigations over the past three years resulting in three major federal cases, and dozens of arrests, including three major out-of-state suppliers.

Despite that progress, which kept hundreds of pounds of meth off the streets, meth continues to flow into Hawkins County and other communities in the region, as evidenced by three HCSO trafficking arrests that took place in the past two days.

Michael William Sproles

Around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, the HCSO responded to a report of a man at a residence in the 2500 block of Stanley Valley Road in possession of a large quantity of meth.

Upon their arrival, deputies reportedly observed Michael William Sproles, 29, Bowater Drive, Kingsport, sitting on the porch.

When Sproles spotted the officers, he fled into the house, disobeying commands to stop, and was later apprehended inside the residence. In the area where he had been sitting, deputies allegedly located 7.2 grams of meth, 21.2 grams of marijuana, several empty baggies, scales, and $850 in cash.

Sproles was charged with possession of meth with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. At the time of his arrest, he was on probation from the Tennessee Department of Corrections on burglary and theft convictions.

Chad Edward Vest

Around 4 a.m. Wednesday, the HCSO arranged an undercover meth purchase from Chad Edward Vest at the Weigel’s convenience store on Stone Drive in Allandale.

The HCSO Narcotics Unit and deputies set up surveillance and approached and spoke to Vest upon his arrival. A search of his vehicle allegedly revealed him to be in possession of 3.3 grams of meth and two sets of digital scales.

Vest, 39, Hammond Avenue, Mount Carmel, was charged with possession of meth with intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia. A passenger in his vehicle, Jackie Vest, was arrested on a probation violation warrant.

Robert Lee Matthews III

Around 1 a.m. Wednesday, the HCSO Narcotics Unit and patrol received information that a silver Chevy pickup with Virginia tags would be traveling into Hawkins County via Stone Drive for the purpose of distributing meth.

The HSCO located a vehicle matching that description at the Zoomers gas station on West Stone Drive and made contact with Robert Lee Matthews III, 39, Oakdale Road, Kingsport, who attempted to flee on foot but was apprehended following a brief foot chase.

During that pursuit, Matthews allegedly tossed a baggie which was recovered and found to contain 23 grams of meth. A set of digital scale was located in the vehicle.

Matthews was charged with possession of meth with intent to deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia, and resisting arrest. A passenger in his vehicle, Lori Duncan, was arrested on a Virginia warrant for larceny.

Federal case involving Georgia trafficker

In 2016, the HCSO Narcotics Unit discovered a large drug trafficking organization that was operating within Hawkins County that was responsible for distributing kilograms of meth.

Because the county is designated by the Office of National Drug Control Policy as a high-intensity drug trafficking area, Sheriff Ronnie Lawson partnered with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Rocky Top HIDTA Task Force to assist with tackling the drug issues.

This partnership allows the HCSO to prosecute not only the local dealers, but also go after those individuals from out of state who are responsible for supplying the local dealers.

The investigation lasted from 2016 to mid-2018, during which the HCSO discovered that David Jones of Chatsworth, Ga., was supplying multiple local dealers within Hawkins County.

Officers were able to intercept and seize kilograms of meth that were destined for distribution within Hawkins County. The investigation resulted in a 49-count indictment involving 18 defendants in Greeneville's US District Court for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Some of the individuals were also charged with federal weapon violations.

Federal case involving South Carolina trafficker

Shortly after concluding the Georgia investigation, the HCSO discovered a second drug trafficking organization that was also operating within Hawkins County. As a result, a 38-count indictment was issued out of the US District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee on June 12, 2018.

The investigation revealed that Leonard Wayne Mullinax of Gaffney, S.C., was distributing meth to Hawkins County dealers.

This second investigation resulted in 16 individuals being charged in federal court with conspiracy to distribute 50 or more grams of methamphetamine. Some of the individuals were also charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

A third federal meth case in Hawkins

Within a few months of the Mullinax case, the HCSO Narcotics Unit discovered a third meth trafficking organization operating in and around Hawkins County.

The investigation reportedly revealed that Charlie Fisher of Carrollton, Ga., Andreanna Phillips from Alabama, and Hunter Cole of Temple, Ga. were allegedly responsible for distributing meth to individuals in Hawkins County.

This past May, a 19-count indictment was issued in Greeneville US District Court charging 14 defendants with Conspiracy to Distribute 50 or more grams of methamphetamine.

Hundreds of pounds off the streets

“All of the high level investigations has resulted in hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine being taken off the streets,” said Lawson. “In addition to the above individuals charged, the sheriff’s office has logged over 503 narcotics-related charges being placed against individuals from July 1, 2018 until July 1, 2019. There are numerous other ongoing investigations related to narcotics distribution that shall result in indictments being issued at a later date.”

Lawson added, “These investigations are complex and takes multiple agencies to make them successful. These on-going investigations leading to these indictments are the product of a partnership between Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office, Third Judicial District Drug Task Force, Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department, Morristown Police Department, Third Judicial District Attorney General’s Office, Tennessee Highway Patrol, FBI Rocky Top HIDTA Task Force, US Marshals Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosive, and the US Postal Inspector, and the US Attorney’s Office.

Individuals charged in the first federal case included: James Dwayne Byington of Rogersville, TN; Edward Smith of Rogersville, TN; Frankie Benton of Bulls Gap, TN; Clay Seals, Jr. of Surgoinsville, TN; Curtis Carpenter of Whitesburg, TN; David Jones of Chatsworth, Georgia; Jonathan Delph of Rogersville, TN; Stephanie Bailey of Hawkins County, TN; Donna Strong of Surgoinsville, TN; Jerry Robinette of Rogersville, TN; Tyler Delph of Rogersville, TN; Scottie Delph of Rogersville, TN; James Michael Whitaker of Rogersville, TN; Paul Bledsoe of Morristown, TN; William West of Rogersville, TN; Leonard Brad Eidson of Bulls Gap, TN; Phillip Burton of Rogersville, TN; and Toby Jones of Chatsworth, Georgia.

Individuals charged in the secodn federal case included: Leonard Wayne Mullinax of Gaffney, South Carolina; Jamie Nicole Wilson of Surgoinsville, TN; Edward Ray Walters of Surgoinsville, TN; Michael James Walters of Church Hill, TN; Corey Aaron Morelock of Surgoinsville, TN; Amber Lynn Hall of Surgoinsville, TN; Matthew Glenn Russell of Rogersville, TN; Christopher Lee Pyles of Rogersville, TN; Destiny Lashay Lawson of Rogersville, TN; Megan Rose Moore of Rogersville, TN; Matthew Jacob Keirsey of Rogersville, TN; Jason Ronald Burchfield of Rogersville, TN; Beverly Ann Brooks of Surgoinsville, TN; Jimmy Lee Gray of Surgoinsville, TN; Jacob Donald Meyers of Church Hill, TN; and Jeannie Michelle Bowman of Surgoinsville, TN.

Individuals charged in the third federal case included: Jeremy Wayne Mowell of Rogersville, TN; Robert Edmonds Jr. of Morristown, TN; Charlie Fisher of Carrollton, Georgia; Andreanna Kimberly Phillips of Alabama; Hunter Steven Cole of Temple, Georgia; Dana Henderson of Pikeville, TN; Dustin Lee Morgan of Russellville, TN; Karalyne Elizabeth Thompson of Rogersville, TN; Danny Dale Morgan of Rogersville, TN; Whitney Nicole Clark of Rogersville, TN; Jeremy Chad Wilder of Rogersville, TN; Danny Ray Bledsoe of Rogersville, TN; Stephanie Linsey Hamblen of Rogersville, TN; and Rachel Suzzanne West of Rogersville, TN.

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