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Massive meth ring bust results in award for area drug task force

STAFF REPORT • Nov 30, 2019 at 3:00 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The Third Judicial District Drug Task Force was recently recognized for its success in a major meth case by the board of the Tennessee Narcotic Officers Association.

An award was given to the task force for its work in a large methamphetamine conspiracy case that began in 2016. Earlier this year, that case resulted in 27 people being indicted on narcotics and weapons charges in federal court in Greeneville. 

This is the third award the task force has received in the last four years. Among those honored were Greeneville Police Chief Tim Ward, Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson, Surgoinsville Police Chief James Hammonds, Greene County Sheriff Wesley Holt, Hancock County Sheriff Brad Brewer, and Third Judicial District Attorney General Dan Armstrong.

The above agencies, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the ATF all supplied valuable resources including their patrol, detective, and special operations divisions during the prosecution of this case.

The task force credited the partners named above for their support and wished to share the award with them.

Details of the case

In early 2016, local and federal law enforcement partnered to undertake an investigation into a meth distribution network that distributed multiple-kilogram quantities of the drug in and around the Greene County area.

This drug trafficking organization obtained large quantities of high purity meth that was brought into the United States by drug suppliers south of the border. Most often the flow of the drug went through Atlanta and was then trafficked into Greene and Hawkins Counties.

The conspiracy was comprised of two overlapping enterprises that had separate primary sources of supply; however, many of the conspirators were, at various times, supplied by both supply chains.

The supplier ran a business that functioned as a money laundering front for the drug trafficking organization, which supplied scores of local dealers. The other primary supply chain was connected to suppliers who facilitated the enterprise from inside the prison system in Georgia.

Arrests began in 2018

The largest phase of the investigation reached its pinnacle in July, 2018 when agents were able to order a half-kilogram of meth from a supplier and then followed him to his stash house. On July 31, agents executed search warrants at the supplier’s business and stash house. Agents recovered kilograms of meth, along with marijuana, several grams of cocaine, and five guns.

Two related indictments were returned, charging a total of 25 co-conspirators with crimes related to their involvement in distributing meth, firearms offenses, and money laundering. The larger of the indictments (22) charged the supplier and a network of his more recent distributors. The secondary indictment cleaved off several distributors who were sourced by the supplier during an earlier phase of the conspiracy.

In January 2019, a superseding indictment was returned in the case, adding others and bringing the total number of defendants indicted in this operation to 27.

In total, the operation has seized more than 10 kilograms of meth, 41 kilograms of marijuana, a half-kilogram of cocaine, and 36 firearms.

Many of the most problematic meth defendants from the Greeneville area are facing prison sentences of between 10-25 years.