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SW Va. attorney pleads guilty to drug charges

Wes Bunch • May 20, 2013 at 10:08 PM

ABINGDON -- A Wise County attorney is facing more than a year in federal prison after he pleaded guilty Monday to four drug-related felonies.

Stuart Collins, 42, of Wise, Va., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia to four counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud.

U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia, which prosecuted the case, said Collins' guilty pleas show the law applies to everyone, regardless of background.

“The guilty pleas entered today demonstrate that no person is above the law,” U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said.

A proposed plea agreement in the case calls for Collins to receive a "significant variance above the sentencing guideline range" based on his conduct in the case, which authorities said included attempts to obstruct law enforcement's investigation of his illicit drug activity.

Charges related to Collins' obstruction have been dropped, but prosecutors said the proposed sentence would reflect those facts.

If the plea agreement is accepted, Collins would serve a total of 20 months in federal prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors said that sentence his higher than the otherwise applicable incarceration guidelines.

“The 20 month sentence of imprisonment called for in this plea agreement reflects the United States Attorney’s Office insistence that Collins’s obstructive conduct be taken into account in determining an appropriate punishment," Heaphy said.

Collins will be sentenced Sept. 10 by U.S. District Court Judge James P. Jones in federal court in Abingdon.

The investigation into Collins' actions was carried out by the FBI's Bristol, Va. office with the assistance of the Virginia State Police and the Southwest Virginia Drug Task Force. The Wise County Sheriff's Office and the town of Wise Police Department also participated in the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer Bockhorst, Donald Wolthius and Randy Ramseyer handled the prosecution of the case.

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