Drug Bust Spans Three Counties

By: Marie Luby Email
By: Marie Luby Email

Police target more than two dozen suspected drug offenders in a bust spanning three counties.
They say Laurel County is becoming a hot spot to buy meth ingredients, and those purchases led to many of Wednesday's arrests.

James Zeo says he was not surprised when UNITE officers and Laurel County sheriff's deputies came looking for him early Wednesday. He's charged with unlawful possession of a meth precursor.

Zeo says, "I knowed it was going to come. I've been more or less on the run, running from them as long as I possibly could, putting it off...nobody wants to go to jail."

Investigators say people arrested in Clay and Leslie counties made a habit of driving to Laurel County to buy common meth ingredients like Sudafed.

Paul Hays, Operation UNITE's Deputy Director of Law Enforcement, says, "You know these people have reputations in the community, some of them. Many of them have other previous charges, so they maybe are trying to get away from law enforcement officers who may recognize them on sight."

Laurel County Sheriff Fred Yaden says, "With all the good roads that we have into Laurel County now, we're just more or less an open target for this."

But going to Laurel County does not mean users can dodge Meth Check. The system helped track purchases during the six-month investigation, which seems to show meth use is increasing.

Yaden says, "Meth has come back with a vengeance around here this year."

Hays says, "There is just such a tremendous danger not only to the people making it but to their families."

Investigators say it requires a tremendous effort to fight the resurgence.

James Zeo tells us he is not guilty of the possession charge.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 4, 2009

Three-county roundup focuses on illegal purchase of drugs used in methamphetamine production

LONDON ­ A six-month investigation by Operation UNITE and the Laurel County Sheriff¹s Office into the illegal purchase of drugs used in the production of methamphetamine has resulted in the indictment of 18 individuals from three counties.

A multi-county roundup to arrest these suspects -- plus another 10 people wanted on other drug trafficking charges -- was conducted Wednesday, March 4.

³Although these suspects live in different counties, the common thread is that all 18 individuals were purchasing cold remedies or decongestants containing pseudoephedrine from Laurel County pharmacies,² said Dan Smoot, law enforcement director for UNITE. ³Pseudoephedrine is the main ingredient used in making meth.²

One gram of pseudoephedrine will yield about one gram of methamphetamine, which sells for about $100 on the street.

³Most of these individuals were visiting multiple pharmacies to obtain tablets or capsules containing the pseudoephedrine,² Smoot added. ³Usually groups of two or three people travel together in order to maximize the amount of drugs they can obtain.²

Kentucky law prohibits an individual from purchasing more than 9 grams of pseudoephedrine within a 30-day period. This is the equivalent of approximately 300 30mg tablets, Smoot said. ³While there are legitimate cases when this quantity of medication is justified, the average person will not purchase this quantity of pills for a lawful purpose.²

Easy access to pseudoephedrine through over-the-counter sales was a significant contributing factor in the proliferation of low cost clandestine meth labs. In order to curb methamphetamine production, Kentucky lawmakers enacted Senate Bill 63 in 2005 which limited dispensing to pharmacies and required a photo ID, signature and address.

Still, the tedious, time-consuming process of sorting through reams of manual logs made tracking pseudoephedrine purchases from multiple pharmacies or across county lines difficult and ineffective. So, in November 2005, the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP) partnered with Operation UNITE to implement a real-time electronic reporting program known as MethCheck in Laurel County.

Success of this 18-month pilot program led to the 2007 General Assembly passed Senate Bill 88, requiring pharmacies to use an electronic reporting system if the state picked up the tab. Funding was ultimately appropriated and the system implemented last year.

³MethCheck was a contributing factor during this investigation,² Smoot said.

Assisting in Wednesday¹s roundup were the Laurel County Sheriff¹s Office, Manchester Police Department, Clay County Sheriff¹s Office and Kentucky State Police.

As of Wednesday afternoon 19 people had been arrested. They are:

€ Alicia D. Boggs, age 22, Levi Jackson Mill Road, London (Laurel County), trafficking in marijuana more than 5 pounds (first offense).

€ Jerry Wayne Bowling, age 31, Hoskins Cemetery Road, London (Laurel County), unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors (first offense).
Arrested February 26.

€ Billy E. Brock, age 44, Highway 421, Hyden (Leslie County), unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors (first offense) and second-degree persistent felony offender.

€ Eugene Brock, age 38, Hoskinston (Leslie County), unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors (first offense).

€ Cecil Wayne Burkhart, age 36, Manchester (Clay County), unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors (first offense) and first-degree persistent felony offender.

€ Beauford Caldwell, 48, Canes Ford, Bear Branch (Leslie County), unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors (second offense) and first-degree persistent felony offender.

€ Taresa Gail Collins, age 27, Echo Valley Road, Lily (Laurel County), unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors (first offense).

€ Charles Ed Gray, age 51, Gray Lane, Manchester (Clay County), unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors (first offense) and first-degree possession of a controlled substance (meth).

€ Linda Ann Hundley, age 55, Maple Grove School Road, London (Laurel County), unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors (first offense).

€ Lillian Ann Jones, age 47, J.C. Osborne Blvd., Hyden (Leslie County), unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors (first offense), and second-degree persistent felony offender. Arrested February 28.

€ Teresa A. Napier, age 37, Robert E. Cox Road, London (Laurel County), trafficking in a marijuana more than five pounds (first offense).

€ Kendra Nicole Sams, age 22, Sally Little Road, Manchester (Clay County), unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors (first offense) and first-degree possession of a controlled substance.

€ Eric Ronald Sizemore, age 32, Jackson Road, East Bernstadt (Laurel County), unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors (first offense) and second-degree persistent felony offender.

€ Henry Clayton Smith, age 51, Hyden (Leslie County), unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors (first offense).

€ Michael P. Smith, age 25, Flamingo Trailer Park, London (Laurel County), first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance. Arrested February 27.

€ Michael Todd Smith, age 29, Fire Station Road, East Bernstadt (Laurel County), second-degree trafficking in a controlled substance and second-degree persistent felony offender.

€ Rhonda Renee Stewart, age 38, Wilder Avenue, Corbin (Knox County), first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance.

€ Roger A. Stewart, age 31, North Highway 11, Manchester (Clay County), manufacturing methamphetamine (second offense) and second-degree persistent felony offender.

€ James Everett Zeo, age 31, Maple Grove School Road, London (Laurel County), unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors (first offense).


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