Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

January 29, 2013

Drug bust catches dozens

BLUEFIELD, Va. — A recent drug roundup in Tazewell County has resulted in the indictment of 45 individuals on 128 charges, officials announced Monday.

Tazewell County Com-monwealth’s Attorney Dennis Lee said 31 of the 45 individuals charged in the recently unsealed indictments are in custody while 14 remain at large.

“As this becomes unfortunately a routine in this area, we have another roundup of individuals who were indicted,” Lee said. “The narcotics run the gambit from heroin to methamphetamine to hydromorphone. Unfortun-ately, we are continuing to see heroin in this area. We never had a distribution of heroin case in Tazewell County until last year, so this is very disturbing. We are also seeing huge numbers of hydromorphone and drugs used in the treatment of drug addiction that people use to hold themselves over or to try to get a fix from.”

Lee said 14 of the indictments remain sealed until the subjects can be arrested.

“Some of these individuals are from out of state or are fugitives,” Lee said. “Our officers are actively searching for them. All of the subjects in custody have been arraigned and many have court dates set in February.”

Lt. Jason Robinson with the Virginia State Police said prescription drugs, oxycodone in particular, remain the largest problem in Tazewell County.

“Marijuana, meth and prescription drugs are the largest problem in Southwest Virginia as a whole,” Robinson said. “Cocaine and meth are not as prevalent. A lot of drugs that are abused have been reformulated. Unfortunately, it is often not until the drug becomes a problem they repackage and reformulate it. Often times, many people turn to new drugs they can access more easily when other drugs are reformulated.”

Lee said the number of drug-related indictments peaked over the course of the past year.

“Since this time last year, we have had 160 people in Tazewell County indicted on drug-related charges,” he said. “This is by far the largest number we have seen. We usually average a little above 100 a year, so 160 is quite a jump. I don’t necessarily think we are seeing more drugs on the streets but that our task force and officers are just working harder than ever.”

Lee said the indictments are the result of investigations undertaken by the Tazewell County Narcotics Task Force, Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office, Bluefield, Va., Police Department, Richlands, Va., Police Department, Tazewell, Va., Police Department and Virginia State Police.

“I would like to commend the officers of our narcotics task force,” Lee said. “This is a small handful of officers putting in late hours and overtime, who are faceless and do not get the recognition they deserve.”

Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hieatt said cooperation between all law enforcement agencies in Tazewell County is essential to prosecuting drug offenders.

“It is not that the problem getting worse but rather we are all working together to pursue these cases,” Hieatt said. “We are all working together not only to arrest individuals but to help these people get the help they need. We have been concentrating on rural areas, like Bishop and Abbs Valley. In smaller communities, it is harder to get in and to get information out of people. A lot of times, these people live in a small community but go out to other areas to sell while some stay in their community to sell.”

Bluefield, Va., Police Chief Harry Cundiff said the majority of crimes in the area are drug related and that the public plays a vital role in prosecuting drug offenders.

“This is not the end of this,” Cundiff said. “We encourage people to call the police. Several tips come in to us and we check every one. It can take a while to build a case, however. When you call in a tip and the person isn’t arrested the next day, it doesn’t mean we have ignored your tip. We appreciate all the help we can get, but these things can take time.”

Individuals listed below are presently in custody as the result of indictments handed down during a special session of the Tazewell County Grand Jury. In some cases, individuals are listed twice to represent each investigation resulting in an indictment:

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