District Attorney General Tony Clark, Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson and Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley announced the arrests of more than 20 individuals as part of “Operation Snowball” during a press conference on Friday, Jan. 19. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

From Staff Reports

For the last six months the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Unit, Erwin Police Department Criminal Investigation Unit and First Judicial District Drug Task Force have worked together on what they deemed “Operation Snowball.”

The results of this drug investigation, which targeted the sale and use of methamphetamine, Xanax, Suboxone, Hydrocodone and marijuana, were announced during a press conference in Erwin on Friday, Jan. 19.

“Since late August 2017, my department, as well as the Erwin Police Department and the Drug Task Force, have conducted several undercover drug operations here in Unicoi County,” Sheriff Mike Hensley said at the press conference. “We named this ‘Operation Snowball’ because when we started one investigation it would snowball into something else. 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 street here in the county and the city of Erwin.

“I want to commend all the officers who have worked on this investigation,” Hensley continued. “There were a lot of man hours put in. It consisted of working not just with the law enforcement agencies but with the Attorney General’s office and other agencies.”

Some of the individuals were indicted by a Unicoi County grand jury on Jan. 8. Other arrests were the result of warrants that were issued and individuals who were at locations where warrants were being served and were in possession of drugs and paraphernalia, according to law enforcement.

The total value of drugs seized in the operation is estimated to be “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” according to a press release from the UCSD. Fourteen firearms and three stolen firearms were also recovered by law enforcement.

Hensley said Friday that 25 people have been charged and that most of the charges are methamphetamine related. Law enforcement officers are still looking for four individuals.

“Methamphetamine is one of the most addictive drugs on the street, along with prescription drugs,” Hensley said. “We also charged some individuals with maintaining a dwelling where drugs are used or sold. We want to make sure, as does the Erwin Police Department, that these people are held accountable for distributing these drugs in Unicoi County and the Town of Erwin.

“This is serious business,” Hensley added. “There are a lot of people dying from these drugs. We have done everything that is in our power to make the Town of Erwin and Unicoi County safe – and we will continue to do that.”

Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson and District Attorney General Tony Clark were also present at the press conference.

According to information distributed by the UCSD, the individuals arrested and their charges as of Friday are:

  • James Fitzpatrick of Erwin – sales of schedule VI, possession of drug paraphernalia;
  • Robert N. Harris of Erwin – sales of schedule VI, possession of drug paraphernalia;
  • Joshua Price of Erwin – sales of schedule VI, possession of drug paraphernalia, failure to appear;
  • Matthew T. Smith of Erwin – sales of schedule III, possession of drug paraphernalia;
  • Steven D. Walker of Carter County – sales of schedule VI, possession of drug paraphernalia;
  • Breanna K. Davis of Erwin – conspiracy to sale methamphetamine (3 counts);
  • Bobby L. Jones of Erwin – conspiracy to sale methamphetamine (4 counts);
  • Dallas Mosier of Erwin – sales of schedule VI, possession of drug paraphernalia;
  • Rebecca Barlow of Unicoi – conspiracy to sale methamphetamine, maintaining a dwelling where narcotics are sold, possession of firearm by drug user, possession of schedule VI;
  • Brandon Barlow of Unicoi – conspiracy to sale methamphetamine, maintaining a dwelling where narcotics are sold, possession of a firearm by drug user, possession of schedule VI;
  • Dennis Spencer Ingram of Unicoi – sales of methamphetamine (5 counts), sales of schedule IV, sales of schedule III, conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine, conspiracy to sale schedule III;
  • Willard Davis of Unicoi – sales of schedule II, conspiracy to sale schedule II;
  • Brandy L. Gosnell of Erwin – sales of schedule III;
  • Joshua R. McGee of Erwin – sales of schedule III;
  • Austin Ingram of Erwin – conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine;
  • Michael E. Cannon of Unicoi – sales of methamphetamine, conspiracy to sale methamphetamine, maintaining a dwelling where narcotics are sold;
  • Chad Higgins of Erwin – sales of methamphetamine, sales of schedule III, conspiracy to sale methamphetamine;
  • Mary Cowden of Unicoi – sales of methamphetamine, conspiracy to sale methamphetamine, maintaining a dwelling where narcotics are sold;
  • Jacenda M. Rogers of Erwin – sales of methamphetamine, conspiracy to sale methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime;
  • Michael L. McNalley of Erwin – possession of a firearm by a convicted felon;
  • Elliot Shaw of Jonesborough – sales of methamphetamine, conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine.

The defendants in these cases are scheduled to appear in Unicoi County court on Feb. 14. The investigation is ongoing and other arrests are expected.

For a full story, pick up a copy of the Jan. 24 issue of The Erwin Record.