KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — An investigation that began in spring 2020 into a drug trafficking organization that was 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.
Arrested include Juan Lopez Gallardo, 44, Jairo David Posadas, 22, Josedad Delacruz, 24, Serguin Castro-Carias, 20, all of Sevier County, were arrested by federal agents Sept. 30. Two more people, Nolvia Rosme Carillo-Rodriguez, 42, and Pablo Daniel Suarez, 32, both of Miami, were arrested the same day. Marco Antonio Cardenas was also arrested. James Hickman is also facing charges. All are under federal indictments.
Cocaine distribution in Kodak
“Using confidential sources, law enforcement was able to make controlled buys from members of the (drug trafficking organization),” the complaint says. “Each controlled buy was video and/or audio recorded.”
The complaint says the “white powdery substance purchased in each instance was cocaine.” Law enforcement “controlled buys” were recorded in April, May. June and July 2020. After one buy, the complaint says agents followed Lopez to a mobile home on Bryan Road in Kodak.
Then on August 18, 2020, Nolvia Rosme Carillo-Rodriguez was found in possession of 3 grams of cocaine and more than $1,900 in cash during a traffic stop by local law enforcement. The criminal complaint says she admitted to working with others to purchase “kilogram quantities of cocaine from a source of supply in Texas” and that she paid $38,000 per kilogram of cocaine. A photo of what appears to be a kilogram of cocaine was found on her phone during a search, the complaint says.
When law enforcement checked the geo-location — the coordinates of where the phone was when the photo was taken — it was found to have been taken inside the Lopez residence in Kodak, according to the narrative in the criminal complaint.
Controlled buys were also made in September and December, the complaint says, with amounts increasing from 2 grams to 1 ounce.
An authorized wiretap on a cell phone used by Lopez led law enforcement to intercept Lopez instructing Martinez to deliver cocaine to an unknown male, the complaint says. Martinez met with Hickman, after which 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.”
Martinez admitted to investigators that he worked for Lopez, selling about 30 ounces of cocaine each week on Lopez’s behalf. Text messages on Martinez’s phone about cocaine linked him to Mateo, the complaint says.
The complaint says more controlled buys were conducted in January and April. it also alleges that in May, a buy was made through Lopez, “who directed the confidential source to enter a trailer and meet with ‘his girl.’ NOLVIA was inside the trailer and handed the cocaine to the confidential source.”
Vehicle theft ring operated across state lines
Federal indictments for Gallardo, Suarez and Cardenas also allege that the trio would obtain and sell stolen vehicles. The men 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.
Gallardo and Cadenas created and obtained false title and registration documents for the stolen vehicles, the indictments said. They then registered the stolen vehicles with the state of Tennessee using the fake documents.
Gallardo and Hickman were also named in an indictment unsealed Wednesday that included two Sevier County deputy clerks. 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.
Court dates set, cash forfeiture ordered
A money judgement is part of the indictment, listing $109,845 seized on June 27, and $31,814 seized Sept. 2.
Lopez, Posadas, Delacruz, Castro-Carias, and Carillo-Rodriguez are charged with a conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. Lopez, Suarez and Cardenas are charged with two counts of conspiracy to transport stolen vehicles across state lines.
An initial appearance for Lopez, Posadas, Delacruz, and Castro-Carias, was held on Oct. 1 in United States District Court in Knoxville. They were ordered to be held in custody pending the setting of a trial date.
Carillo-Rodriguez’s initial appearance was also on Oct. 1 in United States District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He will be taken by law enforcement to the Eastern District of Tennessee for arraignment.
An initial appearance for Suarez was held on Sept. 30 in United States District Court in Miami. He was released and will travel to the Eastern District of Tennessee for arraignment.
Numerous law enforcement agencies assisted with this investigation including Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, Sevierville Police Department, Pigeon Forge Police Department, Gatlinburg Police Department, Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office and Miami Gardens Police Department.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated as new details become available.