Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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October 4, 2013

Drug sweep

Investigations lead to 54 indictments, 170 charges

CEDAR BLUFF, Va. — Multiple investigations of drug activities across Tazewell County have led to more than 50 indictments and 170 charges ranging from drug possession to distribution of controlled substances, a county drug task force announced Thursday.

“We’ve been through a pretty significant drug sweep in the last few weeks since our last grand jury on Sept. 10 of this year,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Dennis Lee said at a press conference in Cedar Bluff, Va. “A total of approximately 54 individuals were indicted on that day. Thirty-six of them have been picked up. It’s a total of 170 counts. Pretty much in a number of our recent indictments and sweeps, it’s a smorgasbord of different drugs, everything from methamphetamine, heroin, prescription drugs and cocaine.”

In Tazewell County, prescription pain medication is still the overwhelming drug of choice, Lee said. The pain drugs make up approximately 80 percent of the county’s drug activity.

“That is not unusual,” Lee said. “Sometimes we focus so much on our county, we lose sight of the fact that this is a national epidemic. Drug abuse accounts for more than 60 percent of overdose deaths in the United States. It has grown exponentially.”

The indictments represent approximately 12 months of collaborative investigative work by the Tazewell County Narcotics Task Force; Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office; Richlands Police Department; Tazewell Police Department; Bluefield,Va., Police Department; Cedar Bluff Police Department; and Virginia State Police.

“Our drug task force is truly a coalition. All of these agencies contribute monetarily as well as with hundreds of hours of time to provide Tazewell County with the best investigations into drug trafficking that we can hope to get,” Lee said. “I can tell you in the last year to a year-and-a-half, there have been more cases from the narcotics task force than in any other time in the history of the task force.”

The task force’s officers are extremely dedicated and work long hours, he stated. Each of the charges listed in the indictments represents an individual drug buy.

“You can imagine with 170 counts how much time goes into each of these undercover operations,” Lee said.

Sheriff Brian Hieatt estimated that each drug case takes three to six months or more to complete. Cases involving dealers moving significant amounts of controlled substances require even more time to investigate.

Tips from the community start many of the investigations, Bluefield, Va., Police Chief Harry Cundiff said. The public might not see investigators in action, but “that does not mean they’re not working,” he added.

Some pain medications like oxycodone have “fallen out of favor” among drug addicts because they have been reformulated, making them harder to use. A pain drug called roxicodone has become the most popular controlled substance, Lee said.

Heroin use has become especially worrisome because the drug now being smuggled into the United States from Afghanistan is more potent than the heroin produced there during the 1970s and early 1980s, Lee said. One factor adding to the problem is that heroin is cheaper than some pain medications. It is also riskier because users do not know its potency.

The illicit drug trade contributes to other crimes, Lee added. Addicts usually start by stealing from their own families in order to pay for their habits. Burglaries, thefts of metal, and other crimes are often linked to addicts trying to get money.

The Tazewell County grand jury handed down the following drug indictments on Sept. 10.

• William Charles Aldridge, 38, of Pounding Mill,Va., was indicted on six charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

•Rebecca Ann Ball, 37, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on four charges including sell or distribute a Schedule III drug.

•Shelby Renee Ball, 21, of Pounding Mill, Va., was indicted on three charges  including sell or distribute a Schedule III drug.

•Matthew Cody Brakefield, 29, of Pounding Mill, Va., was indicted on two charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

•Michelle Lynn Cochran, 41, of Richlands Va., was indicted on three charges including sell or distribute a Schedule III drug.

•Charles Dexter Culbertson, 40, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on four charges including sell or distribute a Schedule III drug.

• Elisha Diane Elledge, 36, of Pounding Mill, Va., was indicted on 10 charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

•Harvey Junior Endicott, 40, of Richlands Va., was indicted on three charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

•Beverly Wayne Farmer, 63, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on 20 charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

• Carston Lee Ford, 32, of Pounding Mill, Va., was indicted on seven charges including possess Schedule I or II drug.

•Jeffrey Allen Fore, 41, of Cedar Bluff, Va., was indicted on two charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

•Genni Rebekah Hagerman, 41, Pounding Mil, Va., was indicted on four charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

•James Edward Harmon, 37, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on two charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

•Chelsey Shea Hill, 23, of Richlands Va. was indicted on three charges including child endangerment.

•Noella Kay Houchins, 31, of Raven, Va., was indicted on two charges including sell or distribute a Schedule III drug.

•Tammy L. Johnson, 53, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on two charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

•Shannon Michael Kitts, 34, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on two charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

•Ruby Naomi Lamb, 48, of Jewell Ridge, Va., was indicted on 20 charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

•Anissa Yvonne Lee, 36, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on four charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

•Maston Louis Lester, 43, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on one charge, sell or distribute a Schedule III drug.

•Deana Michelle Matney, 42, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on 3 charges including prescription fraud.

• Teea Inez Miller, 28, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on two charges including distribution or manufacturing of a Schedule I or II controlled substance (sale for profit)

•Donald Roger Mitchem, 45, of Tazewell, Va., was indicted on seven charges including conspiracy to distribute synthetic cannabinoids.

•Vickie Lynn Monk, 47, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on two charges including sell or distribute a Schedule III drug.

•David Eric Peters, 37, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on six charges including possession with intent to distribute.

•David Eric Peters, 37, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on four charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

•Marsha Renee Redmond, 39, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on four charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

•  Marsha Renee Redmond, 39, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on four charges including possess controlled paraphernalia.

•Tawny Louise Redmond, 34, of Cedar Bluff, Va., was indicted on two charges including distribution or manufacturing of a Schedule I or II controlled substance (sale for profit)

•Beverly Ruth Shelton, 53, of Raven, Va., was indicted on two charges including sell or distribute a Schedule IV drug.

• Karen Darlene Smith, 49, of Raven, Va., was indicted on one charge including  sell or distribute a Schedule III drug.

•Brandon Scott Sparks, 36, of Pounding Mill, Va., was indicted on five charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

•Tiffany Lynn Stacy, 30, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on six charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule III controlled substance.

•Richard Albert Stevenson, 54, of Richlands Va., was indicted on two charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule III controlled substance.

•Teresa Gail Stevenson, 49, Richlands, Va., was indicted on three charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule III controlled substance.

•Michael Caleb White, 25, of Cedar Bluff, Va., was indicted on six charges including sell or distribute a Schedule IV drug.

•Eugene Clayton Williams, 39, of Raven, Va., was indicted on four charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance.

• Lillian Sue Yates, 52, of Richlands, Va., was indicted on three charges including conspiracy to sell or distribute a Schedule I or II controlled substance (sale for profit).

Reporter Anne Elgin contributed to this story

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