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Morristown couple sentenced in meth, food stamp fraud case

July 2nd, 2012 11:28 pm by Jeff Bobo

ROGERSVILLE — A Morristown couple pleaded guilty last week in Hawkins County Criminal Court to charges related to a meth lab bust that occurred following their arrest last year during a Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office “highway drug interdiction operation.”


Vance Edgar “Dank” Lawson Jr., 45, of Morristown, pleaded guilty Wednesday before Judge John Dugger to charges including promotion of manufacturing methamphetamine, food stamp fraud, possession of drug paraphernalia, and violation of the seat belt law.


Lawson was sentenced to two years and one day, fined a total of $2,975, and will be eligible for parole after serving 30 percent of his sentence.


Rita Faye Lawson, 42, of Morristown, pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud. She was sentenced to one year of probation and fined $150. She was originally charged related to the meth lab investigation as well, but those charges were dismissed after Vance Lawson took responsibility for being involved in the meth operation.


On April 4, 2011, the Lawsons were stopped in their vehicle by the HCSO Narcotics Unit on a seat belt violation moments after leaving a residence on Spruce Pine Road, which was raided due to a meth lab a short time later.


The couple were found in possession of a food stamp card under another person’s name, which they stated they’d purchased from the legitimate beneficiary for $75 to purchase groceries.


Vance Lawson was also found in possession of a pipe, which contained meth residue.


He was also implicated in the Spruce Pine Road meth manufacturing operation based on statements given by other individuals arrested on that raid, as well on purchase logs recording his purchases of pseudoephedrine.


Assistant Attorney General Alex Pearson said all other co-defendants in that case have already pleaded guilty. The rightful owner of the food stamp card was not prosecuted, Pearson added, because investigators only had the Lawsons’ word for how they acquired it.


Other guilty pleas heard by Dugger during June’s criminal court session include:


• Dillon Cole West, 25, 617 Zion Hill Road, Surgoinsville, who was sentenced June 1 to 120 days in jail followed by 18 months probation and fined $250 for felony false report.


• Heather Nicole Leonard, 25, 130 Henard Lane, Rogersville, who was sentenced June 27 to two years and one day of community corrections and fined $2,225 for promotion of manufacturing meth and possession of drug paraphernalia.


• John Patrick Shipman, 34, of Rogersville, who was sentenced June 26 to six years on community corrections and fined $4,225 for possession of Schedule II narcotics with intent to deliver, maintaining a dwelling for drug use, and possession of drug paraphernalia.


• Susan Ann Estes, 32, 101 Lyons Park Ave., Rogersville, who was sentenced June 26 to two years and one day and fined $2,000 for promotion of manufacturing meth.


• Thomas Newton Cockrell, 38, 158 River Shadows Drive, Rogersville, who was sentenced June 22 to two years and one day and fined $2,000 for promotion of manufacturing meth.


• Matthew Edward Bledsoe, 21, 135 Dogwood Lane, Whitesburg, who was sentenced June 22 to two years and one day and fined $2,000 for promotion of manufacturing meth.


• Michael Lynn Shelton, 19, no address available, who was sentenced June 22 to two years and one day and fined $1,285 for two counts of vehicular assault and simple possession of Schedule IV narcotics.


• Denver Lingar, 34, of Pineville, Ky., who was sentenced June 22 to three years and one day and fined $2,150 for conspiracy to possess Schedule II narcotics with intent to deliver and felony failure to appear. He was ordered to serve 180 days in jail and will be on probation for the remainder of his sentence.


• Michelle Dianne Bennett, 39, no address available, who was sentenced June 22 to two years and one day, fined $200 and ordered to pay a total of $625 to two victims for two counts of theft over $1,000.


• Lori Ann Davis, 38, 1732 Pressman’s Home Road, Rogersville, who was sentenced June 1 to two years and one day of probation and fined $500 for promotion of manufacturing meth.


• Eugene Russell Baugh, 34, 603 Tuggle Hill Road, Rogersville, who was sentenced to two years and one day, fined $250, and ordered to pay $4,000 in restitution for theft over $1,000.


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