KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — One man has entered a federal plea agreement in connection to a drug trafficking and stolen car investigation that resulted the arrests of 11 people, including two Sevier County deputy clerks.
James Carroll Hickman entered a plea agreement in which he will plead guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectible amount of cocaine. He faces a mandatory minimum sentencing of 5 years in prison, a mandatory minimum of four years of supervised release and a fine of up to $5,000,000.
An investigation that began in spring 2020 into a drug trafficking organization suspected of distributing cocaine in Sevier County and elsewhere ended Oct. 7 with 11 arrests and FBI agents raiding the clerk’s office at the Sevier County Courthouse.
The plea agreement states Hickman worked with others to purchase and distribute the mixture containing cocaine. Hickman was heard on a Dec. 2020 wiretap asking another defendant, Juan Lopez Gallardo, to purchase a quarter ounce of cocaine. Investigators then intercepted a call of Lopez speaking with Jairo David Posadas, who also faces federal charges, to meet with Hickman to deliver the drugs.
After Posadas allegedly met with Hickman, law enforcement conducted a traffic stop on Hickman’s vehicle. Inside, law enforcement reported finding “4 grams of cocaine, along with other types of drugs.”
Controlled buys by law enforcement ranging from 2 grams to 1 ounce took place between September and December of 2020.
Hickman admitted he had purchased more than 500 grams of cocaine from Lopez in the past two years.
Gallardo and two others named in the federal indictments are also alleged to have sold stolen vehicles by obtaining false titles and registration documents to register the stolen vehicles with the state of Tennessee using the fake documents.
Gallardo, Pablo Daniel Suarez and Marco Antonio Cardenas are accused of altering vehicle identification numbers on stolen vehicles to “disguise their stolen nature” and then arranging for the stolen vehicles to be taken from Tennessee and Florida to other states.
Brandy Thornton and Roberta Allen are charged with two counts of taking cash payments in exchange for an official act. Both are employed at the Sevier County Courthouse and had the authority to register and title vehicles with the State of Tennessee.