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Operation Snowball: Unicoi Co. Sheriff's Department seizes drugs, charges 21 after six-month operation

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Jan 19, 2018 at 6:18 PM

ERWIN — A large amount of drugs seized in a six-month investigation led the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department to place charges against more than 20 people this month, Sheriff Mike Hensley announced Friday.

After a joint drug operation between the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department, Erwin Police Department and agents with the 1st Judicial Drug Task Force concluded in the arrests Saturday, Jan. 13, Hensley held a press conference Friday morning to unveil the findings and charges.

The operation, codenamed “Operation Snowball,” targeted the sales of methamphetamine, Xanax, Suboxone, hydrocodone and marijuana and resulted in the indictments of multiple suspects by the Unicoi County Grand Jury Jan. 8, Hensley said. Other arrests stemmed from warrants issued and people who were at locations where warrants were being served and found to be in possession of drugs and or paraphernalia.

The joint operation was the product of “a lot of man hours,” Hensley said.

“Since late August of 2017, my department, along with the Erwin Police Department and the Drug Task Force, has conducted several undercover drug operations here in Unicoi County. We named this ‘Operation Snowball’ because we would start one drug operation and it would snowball into something else,” he said.

In addition to seizing more than three ounces of methamphetamine and a large number of various prescription drugs, Hensley said authorities seized three stolen firearms and 14 illegal firearms.

“This operation has led to the recovery of several stolen items, as well as taken a large amount of methamphetamine and prescription drugs off the streets here in the county and city of Erwin,” he said. “There’s a lot that goes into a successful drug operation and making sure that we’ve got good solid cases presented in court.”

First Judicial District Attorney General Tony Clark said this investigation was just a small part of tackling the meth and opioid abuse epidemic in Unicoi County, where he said he has witnessed a rise in drug-related incidents involving meth and opioid abuse. 

“You’re looking at just the tip of the iceberg of what’s going on – not just in Unicoi County and Erwin but this whole district,” Clark said. 

Law enforcement expects other narcotics-related arrests to take place in the near future as the investigation continues. 

Those arrested and charges included: 

• James Fitzpatrick, Erwin, sale of schedule VI drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia;

• Robert N. Harris, Erwin, sale of schedule VI drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia;

• Joshua Price, Erwin, sale of schedule VI drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia, failure to appear;

• Matthew T. Smith, Erwin, sale of schedule III drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia;

• Steven D. Walker, Carter County, sale of schedule VI drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia;

• Breanna K. Davis, Erwin, three counts of conspiracy to sell methamphetamine;

• Bobby L. Jones, Erwin, four counts of conspiracy to sell methamphetamine;

• Dallas Mosier, Erwin, sale of schedule VI drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia;

• Rebeca Barlow, Unicoi, conspiracy to sell methamphetamine, maintaining a dwelling where narcotics are sold, possession of a firearm by drug user and possession of schedule VI drugs;

• Brandon Barlow, Unicoi, conspiracy to sell methamphetamine, maintaining a dwelling where narcotics are sold, possession of a firearm by drug user and possession of schedule VI drugs;

• Dennis Spencer Ingram, Unicoi, five counts of sale of sales of methamphetamine, sales of schedule IV and III drugs, conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine, conspiracy to sell schedule III drugs;

• Willard Davis, Unicoi, sale of schedule II drugs and conspiracy to sell schedule III;

• Brandy L. Gosnell, Erwin, sale of schedule III drugs;

• Joshua R. McGee, Erwin, sale of schedule III drugs;

• Austin Ingram, Erwin, conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine;

• Michael E. Cannon, Unicoi, sale of methamphetamine, conspiracy to sell methamphetamine and maintaining a dwelling where narcotics are sold;

• Jacenda M. Rogers, Erwin, sale of methamphetamine, conspiracy to sell methamphetamine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime;

• Michael L. McNalley, Erwin, possession of firearm by convicted felon; and

• Elliot Shaw, Jonesborough, sale of methamphetamine and conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine.

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