Two men, described by Sheriff Patrick Ray as major marijuana dealers in this area for several years, may be going to prison after being convicted by a federal jury in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga Wednesday.
Sheriff Ray says 48 year old Jeffory Carl Young of Short Mountain Road, Woodbury and 53 year old Morris Edward Roller of Lance Road, McMinnville were found guilty on all charges in a 20 count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in May, 2006.
U.S. District Judge R. Alan Edgar will sentence the two men at a hearing on May 7th. Roller is facing a prison term of from five years to forty years and Young's sentence could be from ten years to life in prison. The two men have been incarcerated since their arrests and will remain in custody until the sentencing hearing.
The trial began on Monday, January 29th and continued on Tuesday, January 30th, Wednesday, January 31st, and resumed Tuesday and Wednesday, February 6th and 7th.
Another hearing was held Thursday morning in Chattanooga where a forfeiture agreement was reached between the prosecutors and the defendants and approved by the Judge.
Sheriff Ray says the defendants agreed to forfeit 1,000 acres of property they own jointly in DeKalb and Cannon County, with an estimated value of $1.7 million dollars. The property will be sold at auction by the U.S. Marshal's Service at a later date.
Both men were found guilty on a charge that \"they did conspire to manufacture 100 to 1,000 marijuana plants, a controlled substance, from at least 1992 until May, 2006\".
Roller was convicted on nine counts of marijuana distribution on the following dates: January 19th, January 30th, February 18th, July 21st, September 15th, and November 17th in the year 2004, on March 2nd and December 29th in the year 2005, and on May 24th, 2006.
Roller was also found guilty of using a communication facility (telephone) to facilitate the distribution of marijuana on the following dates: September 29th, October 4th, October 5th, and December 21st, 2005.
The jury found Young guilty of aiding and abetting another person in the possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute on August 27th, 2004 and January 31st, 2006
Young was also convicted on charges that he used a telephone to facilitate the distribution of marijuana on December 21st, 2005, January 26th and January 31st, 2006 and twice on December 12th, 2005.
The men, business partners, operated farmland on the Warren-Cannon County line.
The case stems from an undercover investigation by the Warren County Sheriff's Department, the Southeastern Drug Enforcement Agency, the Middle Tennessee Drug Enforcement Agency, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) Agency, and the Tennessee Department of Revenue.
Officers say they made many undercover buys leading up to the raids in May.
Sheriff Ray, who worked for the Warren County Sheriff's Department at the time and was involved in the investigation, says these two men were first charged with manufacturing marijuana eight years ago in DeKalb County during Sheriff Kenneth Pack's administration but the trial ended in a mistrial with a hung jury. The men claimed they were cultivating a wildlife food plot and not marijuana, even though pictures had been taken of the men in the marijuana patch, and were entered as evidence during the trial. Sheriff Ray says some jurors later said they could not convict the men because they were fearful of them. \"During 1999, we had a case here in DeKalb County where these two individuals, Morris Roller and Jeff Young were caught in a marijuana patch. We had pictures of them. That jury was a hung jury. After talking with some of the jurors, they advised that they were scared of these two individuals because they were big time drug dealers.\"
Sheriff Ray says the investigation into the Warren County case began five years ago. \"In 2002 while I was an investigator with the Warren County Sheriff's Department, we had an informant go in and buy compressed marijuana from Morris Roller. We were paying anywhere from $1,050 and up for it. We were actually able to make several buys from him for almost four years from 2002 to May, 2006. We were also able to get another informant to go in and buy from Jeff Young. We actually bought up to nine pounds there at one time. After we had purchased some of the marijuana, we went to Chattanooga and contacted the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and they set up what they call a \"pin link\" on their (defendant's) cell phones, in which we could tell who they were making calls to and who was calling them. That evolved into where we could actually listen to the phone calls. We would listen to the calls and if there was any drug transaction we would evaluate what was going on and who was going there to do business with them. They had a connection out of Mexico. It was Mexican marijuana, which was the compressed marijuana. They were also raising homegrown marijuana. There was testimony during the trial that some of the buds of the homegrown marijuana was at least an inch and a half to two inches thick and about a foot long.\"
During the arrest in May, authorities seized 31 parcels of land, equaling 1900 acres with a tax appraisal of $2.5 million; more than $10,000 in cash; and over ten pounds of marijuana.
Investigators also confiscated two farm tractors, a round hay baler, semi-truck, a ton truck, and a bob cat loader, all believed to have been purchased with proceeds from the sale of drugs.
The Tennessee Department of Revenue also levied a $60,000 tax against the two men
Sheriff Ray says more arrests may be forthcoming as a result of this investigation, including some from DeKalb County.
Sheriff Ray also adds that this is an example of a lesson that adults and young people should learn from, that dealing in drugs is dangerous and costly. \"This is an example of what we should try to teach our kids about using drugs. These two guys here were fairly successful businessmen in the cattle industry. They had nice farms, vehicles, farm equipment, and hundreds of head of cattle, and they lost it all, but more importantly they have lost their freedom. We need to teach our children that this is what can happen to you. If you deal in drugs or use drugs, you can lose everything you have, including your freedom.\"