Calling the present prescription drug abuse problem an epidemic on par with AIDS in the 1970’s and-80’s Tazewell County Commonwealth’s Attorney Dennis Lee released the names of 31 people charged in the latest drug roundup in the county.
Lee was joined at the press conference by the chiefs of police from Tazewell, Richlands and Bluefield, Sheriff Brian Hieatt and Lt. Jason Robinson of the Va. State Police. Lee said prescription drug abuse is not limited to Tazewell County or Southwest Virginia.
“It is a nationwide problem and unfortunately I don’t see the emphasis being put on finding a solution that was put on finding a solution for the AIDs problem,’ he said. Along with a list of those indicted he distributed an article from Bloomberg News stating that prescription drugs overdoses now account for more accidental deaths than car wrecks.
Lee said those arrested in this roundup were charged with distribution of a variety of drugs but prescription drugs continue to be the big problem. He called for establishment of a national data base for sharing prescription information and asked local doctors to use the prescription monitoring program available to them.
The indictments handed down in January were for 45 people with 14 still being sought. Lee said there was a total of 78 charges against the people arrested.
He said the task force had been averaging around 100 arrests per year but had 160 in 2012. Lee attributed the increase in arrests to hard work by officers and becoming better at their jobs. Richlands Police Chief Frank Dorton, who coordinates the task force, said officers are constantly learning and adjusting in their efforts to catch drug dealers.
The task force has been around 25 years and Lee said moonshine and marijuana were some of the things they dealt with in the beginning. Bluefield Police chief Harry Cundiff, who hosted the conference said there were several new names on the list.
He called on the public to keep offering tips and not get discouraged. “It takes time to make cases. Just because they don’t go get somebody the day you call doesn’t mean they ignored the tip,’ he said.
Tazewell Police Chief Dewitt Cooper said the task force is a unified group and determined to battle drug abuse across the county. Sheriff Hieatt said many of the cases in this roundup came from rural areas of the county.
He said this is the second roundup in a row where officers were able to make charges in areas they had been unable to penetrate before. In addition to prescription drugs Lee said methamphetamine continues to be a problem.
He also cited concern about heroin and other hard drugs not seen in the area until about a year ago. Robinson and Lee said the reformulating of drugs like oxycontin had helped with abuse of those products but sent users to other types.
Lee said roxycontin is the number one drug in the county right now. He said oxycontin and opana have fallen by the wayside after being reformulated to keep users from shooting or snorting them.
All of the members of the task force said prevention and treatment are the ways to be successful against drugs.
Those charged in this round up are:
Virginia Elizabeth Angles, Bluefield, 55, one count of conspiracy; two counts of distribution and one count of child endangerment.
Charles William Benfield, Pocahontas, 38, three counts of distribution of schedule I or schedule II drugs
Hendrikus L. Boerboom, North Tazewell, 49, three counts of distribution of schedule one or two drugs.
Kevin Reese Boerboom, Bluefield, WV., 20, one count of distribution of schedule I or II drugs
Michael Calvin Britt, 39, Tazewell, five counts of distribution and two counts of child endangerment.
Ricky Dean Chandler, 25, Bishop, one count of distribution.
Zachary Daniel Cordle, three counts of distribution of schedule I or II drugs.
Bridget Harris Fulton, 38, Bluefield one count of distributing schedule IV drugs.
Franklin David Gardner, 30, Bluefield, One count of conspiracy, two counts of distribution of schedule I or II drugs.
Franklin D. Goss, 56, North Tazewell, One count of distribution of a schedule IV drug.
Jessika Rian Harkness, 25, Bluefield Three counts of distribution of schedule III drugs.
Lamar Eugene Isabelle, 30, Bluefield, WV. three counts of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, three counts of sell or distribute schedule I or II drugs.
David Scott Lester, 50, Tazewell, Three counts of distributing schedule III drugs.
Bridget Shontell Lockhart, 32, North Tazewell, one count of conspiracy, two counts of distribution of schedule III drugs.
Chadwick Ryan Lowrance, 34, two counts of distributing schedule III drugs.
Shonda Lenee Miller, 25, Swords Creek, one count of distributing schedule III drugs.
Jennifer Lynn Mitchell, 50, Tazewell, One count of distributing schedule III drugs.
Rebekah Sue Morris, 37, Tazewell, three counts of distributing schedule III drugs, two counts of child endangerment.
Zanda Lynn Pennington, 56, Bluefield WV., two counts distribution of schedule Ior II drugs and one count of distribution of schedule III drugs.
David Wayne Remines, 33, Tazewell, three counts of distribution of schedule III drugs and one count of conspiracy.
Carla Kaye Robinson, 44, Bluefield, one count of distribution of schedule I or II drugs.
Melanie Lynn Shock, 40, Raven two counts of distribution of schedule III drugs.
Rodney Dale Stacy, 44, Richlands one count of distribution of schedule III drugs.
Michael Wayne Taylor, North Tazewell, 35, North Tazewell. Two counts distribution of schedule III drugs.
Kelvin Davon Tucker, 20, Tazewell, four counts of distribution of schedule III drugs.
Margaret Pearl Whorey, 52, Pounding Mill, one count of distribution of schedule III drugs.
Kenneth Allan Wrightson, 62, Richlands, one count of distribution of schedule I or II drugs.