Spring Cleaning: Roundup targets pill mills
By Wayne Thomas, staff writer
Armed with sealed indictments, law enforcement officers from the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Manchester Police Department fanned out across the county Friday morning to arrest scores of individuals named in sealed indictments handed down last week by the grand jury.
Corey Ridenbaugh, left, is escorted into the Manchester Police Department Friday by officer Matt Aussiker as part of Operation Spring Cleaning, a six-month undercover operation that led to the indictment by the Coffee County grand jury of 35 individuals accused of illegally selling prescription medication. (Staff photo by Wayne Thomas)
The arrests, the result of a months-long undercover operation by the Manchester Police Department, was an effort to shut down so-called “pill mills” currently operating in the county.
“Our investigators have been purchasing illegal narcotics from individuals here in Coffee County since September 2012,” Manchester Police Chief Mark Yother said Friday morning. “The department spent approximately $10,000 on the drug purchases.”
Armed with the sealed indictments, Manchester officers, along with deputies from the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department, began arresting individuals Friday morning who had been named in the 35 indictments. The 20 arrested were then booked into the Coffee County Jail on drug charges, according to authorities, and their cases are pending in the court system.
“The majority of those indicted were for selling pills,” Manchester Police Department chief investigator Billy Butler said.
In addition to those arrested, investigators referred several cases to the federal authorities for drug and weapons charges.
“Prescription fraud is of epidemic proportion at this time and has been in the past,” Yother said. “The legislature has addressed problems dealing with pill mills and with doctors and practitioners acting in a reckless manner.”
The police chief said that he felt a lot more needs to be done to combat the problem.
Pill mills are operated by individuals who visit several physicians, obtaining prescriptions from them, and then sell the pills to individuals for profit.
According to Butler, there were several vehicles seized as the result of the indictment arrests. Also, Butler said, when police arrested those indicted they often discovered more drugs in the possession of those being arrested.
Those arrested Friday during an operation called “Spring Cleaning” were:
Kyle Jernigan, Steven McCormick, Angel Evans, Patrick Keeling, Johna Baker, Jeremiah Martin, Corey Ridenbaugh, Cae Aguilera, Penny Harrell, David Tyler Pugh, Tammy Schill, Seth Burke, James Crawford, Dane Miller Jr., Adam Schmidt, Phillip Hall, Thomas Simmons, Kenneth Cardenal, George Layne and Christy Moody.
Also arrested on state warrants was Gloria Edge.
-Wayne Thomas may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org