BIG STONE GAP - A Sneedville man has been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for distributing cocaine and attempted murder-for-hire, said U.S. Attorney John L. Brownlee.
Michael David Bear, 52, was sentenced on April 19 for the two crimes.
In the first case, Bear was sentenced to 25 years in prison for distributing cocaine. In the second case, Bear was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in a murder-for-hire scheme. The two sentences will run concurrently, said Brownlee.
Bear was convicted in January by a federal jury sitting in U.S. District Court in Big Stone Gap of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, and possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony.
Also in January, Bear pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to two counts of use of interstate facilities to commit murder-for-hire.
According to evidence presented at trial by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Lee, on Oct. 28, 2004, Bear's automobile was stopped by deputies of the Lee County Sheriff's Office near Dryden. Bear, a convicted felon, was found to be in possession of cocaine, two handguns and $7,530 in cash. In addition, Bear admitted to agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Lee County investigators that he had been involved in the distribution of cocaine in Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky since August 2002.
Bear admitted that he had been involved in the distribution of more than 2 kilograms of cocaine during this time period and that he always possessed a firearm while buying and selling cocaine. Additionally, evidence was presented that a search of Bear's home in Sneedville in August 2005 by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the ATF led to the discovery of 50 pounds of marijuana, 26 ounces of cocaine, numerous firearms, and $23,000 in cash.
While Bear was incarcerated in the Bristol Virginia Jail and awaiting trial for the distribution of cocaine charges, a confidential informant contacted the Bristol Virginia Police Department and provided them with information that Bear was attempting to have three individuals in Tennessee murdered so they would not testify against him in a separate drug case in Tennessee.
Further investigation revealed that Bear had already attempted to hire two other people to commit the murders. After an investigation using a confidential informant posing as someone who could arrange the murders, investigators determined that Bear's wife, Cheryl Garrison, 56, and stepdaughter, Melissa Long, 30, both of Sneedville, were also participating in the scheme by attempting to locate and arrange payments for a hit man.
Agents determined that Bear was willing to pay $2,000 per murder and contracted with the confidential informant for three murders. After Garrison mailed a $1,000 down payment on the contract, authorities ended the investigation, and Bear and Garrison were charged.
Garrison pleaded guilty to two charges of using facilities in interstate commerce to commit murder-for-hire pursuant to a plea agreement and was sentenced on April 19 to four years in prison. Long was found guilty and sentenced to a term of imprisonment after a trial on perjury and obstruction charges related to the grand jury investigation of this matter.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Bristol Office of the ATF, Bristol Virginia Sheriff's Department, Bristol Virginia Police Department, and the Bristol Office of the FBI.