ABINGDON — A total of nine residents from Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to their involvement in distributing prescription drugs across state lines.
Pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute oxycodone in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia were Tabatha Drake, 22, Blountville; Mickey Fields, 26, Gate City; Joshua Holmes, 21, Kingsport; Thomas Laney, 25, Kingsport; Jessica Light, 25, Gate City; Connie Puckett, 43, Kingsport; Jacob Spivey, 25, Gate City; Lovella Sweeney, 30, Kingsport; and Donald Lee Whitefeather, 59, Gate City.
Each defendant faces a potential maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison and a fine of $1 million.
Spivey also entered a plea of guilty to one count of distributing suboxone within 1,000 feet of a school. That charge also carries a potential punishment of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said the guilty pleas were part of the latest effort by law enforcement on all levels to tackle the problem of prescription abuse.
“The success of this case demonstrates our commitment to work together across state lines to put criminal drug organizations out of business,” Heaphy said. “Prescription drug abuse is a serious health problem in Southwest Virginia, and this office will continue to prosecute those who profit from the addiction of others. We will also continue to support education and treatment programs and pursue a holistic response to this persistent problem.”
The guilty pleas were the result of a multi-jurisdictional investigation carried out in Scott County and Sullivan County between 2007 and 2011.
According to authorities, investigators from Scott County, Sullivan County, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms determined that Drake, Spivey, Whitefeather, Fields, and Light were distributing large quantities of oxycodone and suboxone over that four-year span.
Investigators also said that Puckett, Sweeney, and Laney were supplying large quantities of oxycodone to other members of the conspiracy for further distribution in Virginia and Tennessee.
The Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service assisted the Scott County Sheriff’s Office, Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and ATF with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Lee is prosecuting the case.