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Operation Appalachian Action results in drug charges against 30

Stephen Igo • Nov 8, 2018 at 6:19 PM

APPALACHIA — Following a 15-month investigation, authorities on Thursday pulled the trigger on a mass drug roundup targeting 30 individuals in and around the Wise County towns of Appalachia and Big Stone Gap.

Operation Appalachian Action resulted in a multi-jurisdictional grand jury issuing 35 indictments focused primarily on alleged methamphetamine sellers and users. 

During a press conference at Appalachia Town Hall, officials described the meth coming into the region as “cartel grade” and not the local “shake and bake” variety typically encountered as in past years.

Wise County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp said 25 of the 35 indictments, covering a range of drug-related charges, involve meth. As of the 12:30 p.m. press conference, Slemp said half — 15 of 30 — of the individuals had been taken into custody.

Last month, citizens attended an Appalachia Town Council meeting to voice complaints about the drug scourge in their town, unaware that authorities were poised to bring a lengthy investigation focusing on Appalachia, Big Stone Gap and surrounding areas to fruition.

“Hopefully, the public will see an immediate impact from these arrests,” Slemp said. “The focus of this action is to provide hope to Appalachia, to Big Stone Gap and to Wise County as a whole.”

Slemp said Appalachia “is a wonderful community, rich in history, a proud people, a good people ... and that’s why it is heartbreaking to see the impact drugs have had on our communities.”

He said the various law enforcement agencies — led by the Wise County Sheriff’s Office — “worked tirelessly and diligently” launching the mass arrest operation “because that’s what it takes to disrupt this activity.”

Besides WCSO deputies, officers from the Southwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force, Norton Police Department, Big Stone Gap Police Department, Appalachia Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police participated in Thursday’s operation.

Wise County Sheriff Ronnie Oakes said officers “have been working for a long time to make today’s arrests possible. These cases were time-intensive and required officers to infiltrate a difficult area. I am proud to be a part of this effort and thankful for the hard work of the officers involved. We will continue to work with the community and law enforcement leaders in the Appalachia area moving forward to keep drugs off the streets.”

Wise County Assistant Sheriff Col. Grant Kilgore said meth products are “highly addictive and highly dangerous, with scary side effects and potential to change a user’s life instantly. We have seen a significant number of violent crimes being committed in this part of the community because of the volatility of methamphetamine.”

Slemp said the fight against the region’s drug scourge is a ceaseless task.

“Efforts today are ongoing,” he said, “but these arrests are just a beginning. When good people join together, report information and take a stand against these crimes, together we can continue this fight every day. People in Appalachia are getting tired of it. People here are rising up.”

Those indicted include:

— Sherry N. Pierce, 39, Appalachia, three counts of distributing Schedule III buprenorphine

— Dorothea V. Mitchell, 55, Appalachia, one count of distributing meth

— Kelsey B. Miller, 24, Big Stone Gap, one count of distributing meth and one count of conspiracy to distribute meth

— Robin R. Boggs, 54, Appalachia, one count of distributing meth

— Joshua S. Carroll, 28, Big Stone Gap, one count of distributing meth

— Jamie L. Christian, 38, Big Stone Gap, one count of distributing meth

— Richard A. Krovich, 48, Appalachia, two counts of distributing meth

— Jeffrey T. Lawson, 40, Appalachia, two counts of distributing meth

— Garfield D. Mullins, 55, Big Stone Gap, one count of distributing synthetic cannabinoid

— Jonathan A. Rollins, 36, Big Stone Gap, one count of distributing meth

— Princeton E. Smith, 27, Big Stone Gap, one count of distributing meth

— Daniel Wagers, 26, Big Stone Gap, one count of distributing buprenorphine

— Holden T. Burke, 26, Big Stone Gap, one count of distributing buprenorphine, one count of distributing meth, one count of conspiracy to distribute meth

— Kimberly D. Wiseman, 58, Big Stone Gap, one count of distributing buprenorphine

— Brian K. Baldwin, 39, Big Stone Gap, one count of distributing meth

— Jessica R. Carroll, 32, Appalachia, one count of distributing meth

— Christy M. Doffermyer, 38, Big Stone Gap, two counts of distributing meth and cocaine

— Kevin Hodnett, 29, Appalachia, one count of distributing meth

— Jamie C. Jessee, 39, Appalachia, one count of distributing meth, one count of conspiracy to distribute meth

— Trevor L. Johnson, 26, Big Stone Gap, one count of distributing meth

— Timothy A. McMahan Jr., 26, Appalachia, one count of distributing meth

— Casey R. Reed, 26, Appalachia, one count of distributing an imitation Schedule II controlled substance, one count of distributing an imitation Schedule II substance near a school

— Keith E. Ritchie, 56, Appalachia, one count of distributing meth

— William K. Sargent, 42, Appalachia, three counts of distributing meth

— Michael R. Turner, 30, Appalachia, one count of distributing meth

— Brett M. Bowers, 26, Appalachia, two counts of distributing meth

— Steven L. Hess, 24, Big Stone Gap, one count of distributing meth

— Terrence J. Poole, 44, Big Stone Gap, one count of distributing oxycodone, one count of distributing oxycodone near a school

— Chad Allen Garrett, 35, Keokee, one count of distributing meth

— Dillan Arthur Robinette, 26, Big Stone Gap, one count of distributing meth

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