Lynn Valley raid turns up cocaine, weapons, cash

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   Three Lynn Valley residents have been arrested after agents of the First Judicial District Drug Task Force and members of the Carter County Sheriff's Department SWAT team executed a search warrant and discovered 5 ounces, or the equivalent of 150 grams, of powder cocaine. Two other Elizabethton residents were arrested in a related incident.
   According to DTF Director Kenneth Phillips, following a two-month investigation, agents executed a search warrant at the home of Ariel and Crystal Aleman, 1306 Broad St., after a confidential informant went to the residence and made a purchase of powder cocaine.
   When DTF agents and members of the Special Weapons and Tactical unit entered the residence, they found three adults and an infant. The adults were arrested and the infant turned over to a grandparent.
   Arrested were Ariel Aleman, 27; Crystal Aleman, 29, who are husband and wife; and Osvaldo Aleman, 29, cousin of Ariel Aleman, all of the Broad Street address. Each was charged with possession of Schedule II cocaine, and possession of drug paraphernalia. They each were set a $27,000 bond.
   During execution of the search warrant, agents also seized approximately $3,000 in cash, a .303 British rifle, a .12-gauge riot gun, a .38 RG .22 short, a Sony laptop computer, 100 rounds of ammunition, a Chevrolet truck and a Chevrolet Cavalier.
   While agents were completing the search, a red passenger vehicle pulled into the driveway of the residence and upon seeing the police cruisers, the driver left in a hurried manner, straddling the center line.
   "Once they saw the cruiser, they decided they didn't want to stay any longer," a DTF agent said.
   A traffic stop was conducted and it was learned that the driver, James Craig Thomas, 33, 104 Dan Berry Hill Road, #104, had outstanding warrants on file at the sheriff's department.
   Officers received consent to search the vehicle and found two spoons with white powder residue on the passenger side of the vehicle under a floor mat. A black duffle bag belonging to the driver also continued a toothbrush holder with three open syringes and a spoon with white powder residue.
   Thomas was charged with violation of an order of protection, burglary, vandalism, stalking, harassment and possession of drug paraphernalia.
   A passenger, James Matthew Russell, 112 Hyder St., was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and public intoxication. Thomas was set a $15,000 bond while Russell's bond was set at $2,500.
   DTF Director Phillips said that approximately two months ago, Carter County Sheriff John Henson called DTF after receiving citizen complaints of possible drug activity in the Lynn Valley community. The raid was conducted following many hours of surveillance, Phillips said, and one of the persons arrested during the traffic stop had been seen at the residence many times before.
   The confidential informant made the powder cocaine buy within the last week, Phillips said.
   "The information that we had at first in our investigation is it was an independent group of dealers and they were making trips back and forth to Miami, Fla., on a routine basis and were picking up the cocaine and bringing it back," Phillips said.
   Sheriff Henson said, "Since I've been sheriff here, I have added another drug agent onto the drug task force ... When I came here we had one person working drugs. We now have two, which, as you can see, it is working. We're getting a lot more drug cases and getting a lot more done."
   Henson said cooperation among agencies in surrounding counties has led to numerous arrests, including that of Brandon Michael Davis, 38, 925 Hermitage Drive, Kingsport, who also was arrested Thursday with the help of the drug task force following the recent robbery of Hampton Pharmacy. Kingsport Police Department, Washington County (Tenn.) Sheriff's Department and Washington County (Va.) Sheriff's Department also were involved in the investigation and arrest, Henson said.
   "By working together with the surrounding agencies of this area, we can make a difference and we are making a difference. Right here is a prime example," he said.
   The day following the robbery of the pharmacy two suspects were developed. They later were located in a hotel room in Abingdon, Va., where several items linked to the robbery were found. Davis was arrested after witnesses made positive identification. Davis was charged with one count of armed robbery and possibly two other arrests are pending, Henson said.
   The sheriff said he believes Davis and other suspects have been charged by Kingsport Police with robberies in their jurisdiction.
   "There's a lot of people out here on drugs. They're doing robberies, burglaries -- whatever it takes to support the habit. Nine times out of 10 here lately, most of your robberies and burglaries have tied back in to drugs.
   One thing that aided in the investigation, he said, was pharmacy employees "were calm through the whole thing. They did exactly what they should have done. They looked at the person and got all of their details and we had a good description to go on."