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April 20, 2014

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Hawkins residents enter pleas in federal drug investigation

Greene County Sheriff Steve Burns and Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson listen as U.S. Attorney William Killian provides details of a federal drug investigation.
Published: 10:45 AM, 02/20/2013 Last updated: 10:53 AM, 02/20/2013

Source: The Rogersville Review

By Bill Grubb
News Editor

ROGERSVILLE - Calling it a "huge" drug bust,  United States Attorney William Killian, of the Eastern District of Tennessee, used a Rogersville press conference to discuss details of a multi-county, multi-agency investigation.
    The operation resulted in 32 convictions and took millions of dollars worth of illegal drugs off the streets, according to Killian.
    The 32 individuals who have all pleaded guilty to various drug conspiracies related to cocaine, marijuana, and oxycodone include:
William A. Lawson, 66, of Rogersville; Randal Michael Lawson, 57, of Limestone;  James Light, 64, of Rogersville;  Kenneth A. Lawson, 45, of Limestone;  Tia L. Lawson, 40, Kingsport;  Elia Maria Camacho Garcia, 30, Burlington, N.C.;  Brock A. Lawson, 26, Rogersville;   Jeffrey M. Bledsoe, 31, Kingsport;  Jessica L. Lawson, 32, Bristol; Charles T. Laing, 30, Boynton Beach, Fla.; Jackie D. Dykes, 48, of Rogersville;  Michael L. Dykes, 51, of Rogersville;  Lorne L. Loucel, 32, of Rogersville;  Lisa A. Crawford, 37, of Rogersville;  Virginia D. Light, 49, of Rogersville;  Asa Kermit M. Calhoun, 33, of Rogersville;  Steve A. Gooch, 29, of Rogersville;  Jonathan L. Light, 24, of Kingsport;  Jeremy R. Light, 28, of Rogersville;  Michael B. Dykes, 30, of Rogersville;  Daniel L. Dykes, 29, of Rogersville;  Christy D. Dykes, 32, of Rogersville;  Levi D. Love, 24, of Kingsport;   Shandeeda M. Compton, 31, of Rogersville;  Jessica R. Bernard, 23, Greeneville;  Cody A. Arnold, 27, Greeneville;  Joyce L. Malone, 35, Greeneville;  Christopher L. Tipton, 30, Afton;  Abbey M. Armstrong, 28, Greeneville;  Amanda D. Bernard, 23, Greeneville;  Christy R. Seay, 39, Greeneville; and  Marvin Neal Southerland, 34, Greeneville.
    In addition to the drug distribution charges, several individuals, including William A. Lawson, Randall Michael Lawson, Elia Maria Camacho Garcia, and Charles T. Laing, also pleaded guilty to conspiracies to launder money. William A. Lawson and Randall Michael Lawson also pleaded guilty to Social Security Fraud. Charles T. Laing and Jeffrey M. Bledsoe also pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm in furtherance of the drug trafficking offenses.
    The investigation began in 2009 and targeted individuals who were trafficking in large quantities of Mexican cocaine and marijuana, reportedly supplied by a "drug trafficking organization" in North Carolina.     
    In addition, authorities were made aware that individuals in Tennessee were distributing large quantities of oxycodone pills obtained from Nevada and Georgia.  In 2010, Laing and others reportedly opened The Liberty Wellness Pain Clinic in Norcross, Georgia, near Atlanta, and began using the clinic to obtain oxycodone for distribution in East Tennessee.  The clinic was raided by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in April 2012 and closed its doors.
    "Collectively seized, or proven as part of the conspiracy, were over 300 pounds of cocaine, over 16,000 pounds of marijuana and over 21,000 oxycodone pills, some firearms and $2.5 million in cash was confiscated," Killian said at the press conference.
    "Any time we can catch and convict such a large and armed cocaine, marijuana and oxycodone pill conspiracy and confiscate millions of dollars of drug money, then Hawkins, Sullivan and Greene  county residents and other parts of East Tennessee are safer," Killian added.
    The arrests and subsequent pleas were based on the work of a multitude of agencies, Killian explained, including the Hawkins, Sullivan and Greene County Sheriff's Departments, the Second District Judicial District Drug Task Force, The Third Judicial District  Drug Task Force, Kingsport Police Department, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and DEA.
    The U.S. Attorney also gave credit to specific local officers for their involvement in the investigation including Lt. Chad Gillenwater, Sgt. Lynn Campbell, Investigators David Benton and Jeff Hilton, all from Hawkins County.
    "This is the first time in the history of Hawkins County that local, state, and federal agencies have teamed together to rid one community of a terrible drug problem. It gives me great pride to be a part of that," Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said.
    Killian described oxycodone as "basically synthetic heroin."
    "It's extremely addictive.  When we talk about 20,000 pills you're talking about a lot of addiction that could affect a lot of people," the U.S. attorney explained, adding breaking up the operation was "as good as it gets in law Enforcement."
    Although Killian said the cash value of the drugs seized had not been calculated he did note the total value was more than the $2.5 million confiscated.
    The U.S. Attorney said the individuals were all connected "with one common purpose, that was to distribute illegal drugs."
    "This was a major dent in the drug problem.  That's a lot of cocaine.  Thats a lot of marijuana.  Thats a lot of oxycodone pills," Killian said, noting that the investigation is ongoing.
    These individuals are all awaiting sentencing before the Honorable Leon Jordan, U.S. District Court Judge and the Honorable J. Ronnie Greer, U.S. District Court Judge.  Possible sentences range from a mandatory term of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $20 million to mandatory terms of five years in prison and fines of $1 million.

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