DTF crackdown nets nine arrests in three days

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF

   The First Judicial District Drug Task Force kicked off a hectic week Sunday, arresting nine persons in three days. Eight of those were nabbed through the use of a confidential informant during "buy-busts" for crack cocaine. While serving a warrant on the ninth person, DTF found him to be in possession of OxyContin.
   Most of the people arrested were from Johnson City, according to DTF.
   "We've been getting a lot of complaints on crack. It's kind of bleeding over into our area from Johnson City. They're expanding out and coming over to Carter County and selling in that area, so what we did was we caught a couple of them that were coming over," the agent said.
   Sunday night, DTF and Carter County Sheriff's Department conducted a buy-bust in West Carter County. "We ended up arresting two people that night for selling crack cocaine. I think we got a couple grams on that one -- several hundred dollars of crack cocaine," the agent said.
   Lisa Rena White, 28, Tyler Apartments, Johnson City, and Laron Mareece Lathen, 21, 201 Carter Sells Road, Johnson City, were arrested by Sgt. Keith Range of the sheriff's department. Both were charged with sale of Schedule II and conspiracy to sell Schedule II.
   Monday night, DTF and the sheriff's department conducted another buy-bust in the Milligan area, netting a couple grams of crack cocaine and three arrests.
   Brothers Jerry Blevins, 38, 703 Blevins Ave., Robert Harrison Blevins, 34, 318 Highland Drive, Johnson City, and Rhonda A. Saunders, 40, 405 W. Watauga Ave., Johnson City, were arrested by Sgt. Range and each charged with sale of Schedule II and conspiracy to sell Schedule II.
   "Then today, about 12:30 a.m., we did another one in West Carter County, a buy-bust once again, and we arrested three out of that one," the agent said.
   Thomas Nelson Houston, 61, 2918 Greenwood Drive, Johnson City; Myoko M. Ingram, 25, 307 W. Watauga Ave., Johnson City; and Rashad E. Feggans, 24, 905 Henry St., Johnson City, were arrested by Sgt. Range. Ingram was charged with sale of Schedule II and conspiracy to sell Schedule II. Feggans was charged with sale of Schedule II, conspiracy to sell Schedule II, and unlawful possession of a firearm -- a .380 pistol. Houston was charged with sale of Schedule II, conspiracy to sell Schedule II, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
   Later Tuesday, DTF agents went to serve an arrest warrant on James David Renfro, 37, 116 Lewis Blevins Road, for parole violation "and we ended up finding OxyContin and made that additional charge on him," the agent said.
   "He was on parole from drug charges back in the 1990s. They got him, I believe, in Carter County for selling heroin and he was on parole for that charge and he violated it somehow."
   Renfro is being held in Carter County Jail without bond.
   White, Lathen, the Blevins brothers and Saunders all originally were set $50,000 bonds. Those were reduced Tuesday in General Sessions Court to $2,000 corporate bond ($200 to a bail bondsman). White and Saunders posted bond and were released.
   Houston and Ingram each originally were set $25,000 cash bonds, however, those were lowered Tuesday to $2,000 corporate. Feggans' bond was set at $27,000 cash, but his bond also was reduced to $2,000 corporate.
   According to the DTF agent, crack cocaine is "turning into a real big thing that we're seeing in our area."
   Users take powder cocaine and cook it into a rock which is then cut off in pieces and smoked, he said. "They used to call it 'free-basing coke,' but now it's called 'smoking crack.' "