A Loudon County Marine killed in action in 2006 is now being remembered with a highway named in his honor. 1-75 between mile markers 81 to 83 in Loudon County is now named Lance Corporal William C. Koprince, Jr. Memorial Highway.More >>
A Loudon County Marine killed in action in 2006 is now being remembered with a highway named in his honor. 1-75 between mile markers 81 to 83 in Loudon County is now named Lance Corporal William C. Koprince, Jr. Memorial Highway. More >>
TAZEWELL (WATE) - Fifty people will be charged in Claiborne County following a federal investigation of a drug distribution ring.
Federal agents and Claiborne County sheriff's officers began rounding up the suspects early Wednesday morning.
"It's a cartel straight from Florida, a pipeline into Claiborne County, Tennessee," said Claiborne County Sheriff David Ray.
The investigation began in October 2009 as a joint effort between several law enforcement agencies.
"From month to month, we've been waiting to get to this point," Sheriff Ray said.
A federal grand jury in Knoxville handed down 20 sealed indictments Tuesday while a Claiborne County Criminal grand jury returned 30 sealed indictments.
The indictments allege that the suspects were involved in a drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy for over two years. The drugs involved include oxycodone, hydromorphone and hydrocodone, Schedule II controlled substances and others.
The suspects are accused of selling in excess of $6 million worth of prescription narcotics over the course of the conspiracy.
"We know this is not going to stop it, but it'll certainly slow it down," Sheriff Ray said.
The sheriff also said the alleged pipeline is apparently a family affair. Many of the people named in the indictments are related. Others are friends or neighbors.
A spokesperson with the U.S. Attorney's Office said a handful of people turned themselves in, preferring not to greet officers at their doorsteps.
Before the indictments, several federal search warrants were executed in Claiborne County and in Pinellas County, Florida where Trent Bussell and Amanda Bible were charged with trafficking in oxycodone.
Bussell is the lead defendant in the federal indictment.
The other suspects facing federal charges are:
Leonard Bussell, 64, of Tazewell
Geneva Bussell, 58, of Tazewell
Kenneth Trent Mason, 28, of Harrogate
Crystal Nicole Mason, 31, of Speedwell
Christopher Ray Mason, 37, of Tazewell
Roger Gerrid Bussell, 36, of New Tazewell
Randy Williams, 48, of New Tazewell
Dwight Creech, 42, of Cumberland, Kentucky
Jeff Adcock, 39, of New Tazewell
Johnny Harvey, 27, of Knoxville
Jackie Mize, 61, of Harrogate
Billy Mize, 40, of Harrogate
Carson Day, 62, of Tazewell
Mary Lynn Caldwell, 43, of Harrogate
Tonya Miracle, 33, of New Tazewell
Along with six of those defendants, these three are also indicted in the federal money laundering conspiracy.
Nicole Seal, 31, of New Tazewell
Jessica Wilson, 37, of New Tazewell
Althea Gamble, 58, of Warren, Michigan
Bussell and Bible remain in jail. He is being held on a $150,000.00 bond and she is being held on a $100,000 bond.
Law enforcement seized many items in Claiborne County allegedly purchased with drug money including a houseboat, pontoon boat, three jet skis, four 4x4 ATVs, motorcycles, cars and trucks.
They also seized $64,000 in cash.
The suspects were first taken to the Claiborne County Jail. Some of those facing federal charges were taken to court in Knoxville.
If convicted, the federally-charged defendants face up to 20 years in prison on the drug and money laundering conspiracy counts.
The defendants who are charged with possessing firearms in a drug trafficking crime face terms of no less than five years in prison if they are convicted. Those must be served consecutively to any other prison term imposed.