A lengthy investigation by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, Alexandria Police Department, TBI and other law enforcement agencies into a drug running operation here and in other counties of the Upper Cumberland has resulted in grand jury indictments against sixty one people charged with the illegal sale or conspiracy to sell prescription drugs. Three others were indicted on unrelated charges of theft (stealing trailers).
A special session of the DeKalb County Grand Jury met Monday and returned indictments against people locally and from other counties, who either allegedly sold or conspired to sell drugs to undercover operatives in DeKalb County. According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, authorities believe the drugs were being supplied from a contact in New York.
Sheriff Ray says his department presented to the grand jury cases against forty people from throughout the county on drug charges, plus an additional twelve people in Alexandria, who were indicted as the result of a joint investigation between the sheriff's department and the Alexandria Police Department. The TBI presented cases to the grand jury against nine people, mostly from the Jackson, Overton, and Putnam County area who allegedly conspired to sell drugs in DeKalb County.
Richard Brogan, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge, says defendants in the TBI investigation were facilitating the availability of drugs locally. "The main focus of our investigation was a man by the man of Timmy Young of Gainesboro, who is known as "fat boy" on the street. He had a direct connection with the main suppliers that were bringing them in from Nashville and New York. Those pills were then distributed out to what we call "runners" that would sell to other individuals on the street level."
Agent Brogan says prescription drug abuse is a major problem in this state. "Prescription drug abuse has probably become our fastest growing problem in the State of Tennessee such as dilaudid which is synthetic morphine and oxycontin which is also a highly addictive drug. Oxycontin, for example, is selling for $80 a pill on the streets today. You can see how expensive these pills are just to buy one so you can imagine what other crimes that leads to such as burglaries, shoplifting, robberies, and things like that to take care of their habits."
Sheriff Ray says this was a "three phase drug operation. One of the phases was with the Alexandria Police Department, where we've been focusing on the housing project down there. We have been getting complaints of illegal drug sales and drug use. We've netted twelve defendants out of there", said Sheriff Ray.
Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins said he is appreciative for the cooperation of the sheriff's department in this investigation. " Several months back we started receiving complaints and actually most of it originated from the housing project about a lot of drug activity. Through our informants we heard that there were illegal drug sales going on at times in the housing project and other places in Alexandria. With ours being a small department, I summoned the help of the Sheriff's Department. Sheriff Patrick Ray and his detectives and I, along with my Sergeant Chris Russell, began an undercover operation to see if we could buy some of these illegal drugs in Alexandria to rid the problem. We were able to make several undercover buys of illegal narcotics in the Alexandria area and outside the Alexandria area, some of them even stemmed, from our sources, out into other counties. We were able to get a total of twelve defendants actually inside the city limits of Alexandria. Most of these people who were arrested came from the housing project. They are living there in assisted living and most of these defendants are on TennCare. The government is supplying them with their medicine and they're bringing that medicine back and selling it to anyone who knocks on their door. I don't agree with that and I think it's my job and duty as a sworn police officer to try to rid that."
In addition to facing possible jail time, Chief Collins says these defendants may also be evicted from their housing project homes. "The way I understand it and speaking with the housing authority in the past is that if someone who lives there gets arrested for violations like we've got, they're subject to losing their home (evicted) and I think they should"
"When I became the police chief about three years ago, I promised the citizens of Alexandria that I would give them the best law enforcement I possibly could and I am still going to commit to that. Alexandria is a great place and we have a lot of good people."
"I just want to extend my gratitude to all the departments who have helped, especially to Sergeant Russell and the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Ray, and his detectives for making this operation a success."
In addition to the Alexandria investigation, Sheriff Ray says his department worked with the TBI on it's cases and conducted a probe of it's own."We worked probably a nine month to a year long investigation with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. It focused on our local drug dealers here. It also focused on other places within our drug task force region. The investigation led into Nashville and from there to New York, the source of the drugs."
"Our department (sheriff's department) also did an investigation in which we made cases leading to indictments of three defendants charged with theft over $500, where they had taken some trailers. The other forty were drug cases. Altogether, there were sixty one indictments (for drugs), including nine from the TBI, twelve from Alexandria, and forty from the sheriff's department. Those forty came from Alexandria, Liberty, some in Dowelltown, and in the Smithville area. We tried to go all over the county and buy drugs where we could. They've been bought on every end of the county this time."
"We've bought everything from marijuana, oxycontin, dilaudid, suboxone, among other illegal drugs. The agencies involved in this operation were the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Task Force, the District Attorney General's Office, the Alexandria Police Department, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the THP Swat team, DeKalb County constables, federal marshals, and the county fire department for allowing us to use their main station on King Ridge Road (to book the prisoners), and also from concerned citizens who have called and informed us of people who they thought were in the business of selling illegal narcotics. We appreciate every call that we had. We try to check every call we get on our drug tip lines. A lot of people think that they can call in a drug dealer and by morning we'll have them put in jail. That doesn't work that way all the time. It takes a lot of surveillance work. It takes the buys themselves. We have to obtain informants to go in and make the buys. Then all the legal paper work has to be done after that to get our indictments."
Sheriff Ray adds that some of the defendants were also charged with dealing drugs in what the law classifies as a "drug free zone" where children may be present. "We charged people with being in violation of the drug free zone laws, which is being near any school, library, ball parks, or anywhere children could be present. There's a statute for that. We have numerous counts (charges) of those, where either the drug dealer lived in those areas and instructed our informants to come there to buy drugs or, in some cases, they told our informants to meet them at a certain location. Most of what we got (defendants/drugs) has been in those drug free zones where some of them lived."
In order to make room for many of these extra prisoners, Sheriff Ray says some of the state prisoners who were already in jail have been moved to other facilities. "In the last few days, we have tried to prepare for this drug roundup because naturally some of these people are not going to be able to make bond. These sixty four people would overload the jail. Our inmate population is somewhere in the 90's. That's what it's been for the last few months and on the weekends we're running close to 100 with 103 beds in the jail. So yesterday (Tuesday) we sent some state prisoners to the Macon County Sheriff's Department to serve the remainder of their time there to give us some room at the jail to house these inmates here. We also sent some (state prisoners) to the Tennessee Department of Corrections this morning (Wednesday) so that we can hold some of these individuals that can't make bond. Some of them will have violations of parole or probation warrants that will be coming with no bonds on them so naturally they won't be able to get out of jail on those."
Sheriff Ray says he is proud of his department and the teamwork shown throughout this operation. "I want to commend my department. Every correctional officer that I have, every deputy, detective, all my administrative staff, court officers, every employee I have has played a very important role in this operation. Unity is the key to power. I want to stress this. All of our outside law enforcement agencies have come in and helped us. I don't think any one department or any one officer wants to take all the credit for the operation. It's not only our job, but it's our obligation, we're sworn to uphold the law and we want this done as a team effort."
"As sheriff, I would like to dedicate our part of this operation to everyone who has lost friends and loved ones due to suicides or drug related deaths. This is the only way that law enforcement and the community can come together. If we'll bond together we can make things happen, just like it's happened today. We want to stress to everyone, keep calling in, keep working with us, and we'll hope to have another one (roundup) real soon."
As for it's part of the investigation, the TBI, in a prepared news release, states that "Nine defendants were indicted on charges of conspiracy to sell and deliver over 50 grams of a schedule II controlled substance and violations of the drug free school zone act. The operation called "Yellow Dot" centered around the sale and distribution of hydromorphone, also known as Dilaudid."
"In February of 2009, TBI and the 13th Judicial District Drug Task Force received information about a string of home burglaries and shoplifting thefts by subjects who were supporting a Dilaudid habit. That information prompted the drug investigation."
"The defendants were selling Dilaudid ranging from $20 to $30 per pill at various locations in Putnam County and Cookeville, TN. Information received during this investigation prompted the TBI to open a case into the source of the prescription drugs in Smith County and Nashville, TN. That investigation resulted in the arrest of nineteen individuals in December of 2009."
"The following defendants from TBI cases were booked into the DeKalb County Jail. Three currently have active warrants.
Charles Dowis, Cookeville, TN
Lakrisha Willis, Livingston, TN
Ron Stewart, Gainesboro TN
Tabbie Wilson, Cookeville, TN
Ted Hooten, Gainesboro, TN
Tim Young, Gainesboro, TN