Phase Two Of Corruption Probe Hits Southeast Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Twenty-two people, including a sheriff’s deputy, were arrested Wednesday in an investigation of drug trafficking and public corruption that already had led to the arrests of two sheriffs and a judge.
The charges announced Wednesday were in addition to the indictments disclosed Tuesday of 12 people in the 2 1/2 -year ″MACH-Tenn″ undercover operation. The code name stands for ″machines in Tennessee,″ referring to stolen trucks, cars and video poker devices used for gambling, authorities said.
The indictments of 25 more people, including some law enforcement officers, were expected, FBI agents said.
″This represents our continuing effort to ferret out criminal activity in all of East Tennessee,″ said FBI agent Frank Wilent, who said undercover agents had bought drugs and recovered stolen property worth more than $5 million.
Grundy County Sheriff’s Deputy Ronnie King was charged Wednesday with illegal possession of a sawed-off shotgun and distribution of 49 capsules of a drug identified only as a painkiller.
Two men were charged Wednesday with illegally possessing a truckload of stolen apple products, including pie filling and apple juice, the FBI said. Others were charged with the illegal sales of drugs and transporting stolen cars to and from Georgia, about 30 miles from Grundy County.
Harriman City Judge Glenn E. Langley was among those arrested Tuesday. He was charged with issuing false search warrants for an associate to confiscate a pound of cocaine and with the sale of eight pounds of marijuana.
The arrests of Scott County Sheriff Marion Carson and Claiborne County Sheriff Billy Wayne Smith brought to eight the number of sheriffs or former sheriffs arrested in East Tennessee since 1982. Five have been convicted of drug charges while one awaits trial.
Smith was informed of the indictment against him last week and agreed to plead guilty to accepting $11,025 to protect video poker machines in his county.
U.S. Attorney John Gill of Knoxville said public corruption in East Tennessee may have increased because of a rise in drug trafficking in the area.