Multi-county drug investigation leads to six arrests

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   Six people were arrested Tuesday night in Unicoi County as part of a multi-agency drug investigation that began in Jonesborough.
   According to First Judicial Drug Task Force Director Kenneth Phillips, five of the people arrested all lived at the same residence, 1322 South Walnut Drive, Erwin. Arrested were Dean Denver Price, 61; Maria Virginia Price, 50; Anita Ann Price, 21; Steven Ray Miller, 23; and Denver Lee Price, 24. The sixth person that was arrested was Chad Higgins, no age or address available.
   Each has been charged with the possession of Schedule II narcotics (methamphetamine) for resale, possession of Schedule II narcotics (cocaine) for resale, conspiracy to distribute Schedule II narcotics and possession of drug paraphernalia.
   "Early (Wednesday morning) agents of the First DTF, agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, officers from the Elizabethton Police Department, Jonesborough Police Department and Unicoi County Sheriff's Department executed a search warrant at 1322 S. Walnut Drive in Erwin, Tenn., the residence of a Denver Price," Phillips said. "Earlier, we had done a controlled narcotics transaction at the residence, within the last five days, and then we went back and executed the search warrant."
   During that search, investigators found methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana seeds, Phillips said. "We also have unknown materials that have been found that have not field tested positive for anything but will be sent to (the) lab for identification," he said.
   The methamphetamine investigators found in the residence was of a high quality. "The crystal meth that was found is in the purest form that is commonly called 'ice'," Phillips said. "Agents also found four firearms which were confiscated and approximately $2,000 in cash."
   According to reports, investigators found two ounces of methamphetamine and six grams of cocaine in the residence with an estimated street value of approximately $5,000 for all of the contraband that was seized, according to District Attorney General Joe Crumley.
   Additional charges in the case are pending. "There will most likely be additional serious charges placed," said Elizabethton Police Department Chief Roger Deal, adding that he could not discuss particulars of the investigation due to the fact that it is ongoing.
   Phillips also confirmed that the investigation is continuing and additional charges may follow. "The investigation is continuing. As I said earlier, it's a multi-county case," he said. "Through our investigation we have learned that the transactions were going on in Washington County, Carter County and Unicoi County at this time, and it may spread further."
   The investigation began in Jonesborough into a separate narcotics case, according to Jonesborough Director of Public Safety Craig Ford. "Approximately one month ago, an investigator with our agency began working a case here in the corporate limits of Jonesborough in which a quantity of methamphetamine and cocaine was seized," he said. "At that point we began a drug operation and as the operation got bigger we then contacted agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation after talking to the Attorney General's office and subsequent to that we also began a joint venture with the First Judicial Drug Task Force that culminated in the arrests (Tuesday) night."
   Penalties for charges the six arrested individuals face could be stiff, according to Crumley. "Possession and sale of cocaine in the amounts that we've got here would be eight-30 years (of jail time), and the methamphetamine would be three-15 years if convicted," he said.
   According to Crumley, the amount of marijuana seeds found at the residence indicated they would be used for the purpose of growing marijuana. Crumely said he has been in contact with the federal government, and that he and other investigators are considering taking the case to federal court.
   All six of the individuals arrested are scheduled to appear in Unicoi County General Sessions Court today.