HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. - 32 people have entered guilty pleas to various drug conspiracy charges. Click here to read more about those charged and view mugshots.
We've learned it's been a four-year investigation spanning over three counties in northeast Tennessee.
"Collectively seized or proved as part of the conspiracy were over 300 lbs of cocaine, 16,000 lbs of marijuana and over 21,000 lbs of oxycodone pills, some firearms and $2.5 million in cash was confiscated," said United States Attorney William Killian.
"Normally what happens in an investigation of this nature is the investigation starts out on a local basis and you have to go out, kind of start in the middle of the cobweb and head out to the edges until you realize how much it encompasses and how far away, "said Killian.
Killian says they found traces of the drug trafficking starting out in North Carolina and ending in Tennessee, but soon realized people from other states were involved. "Oxycodone pills were being shipped from Nevada, then they changed to open a pain clinic in Georgia that furnished the oxycodone pills. Then the Mexican connections were established," said Killian.
Since the bust, Sheriff Ronnie Lawson tells us he's seen a difference. "We can tell a difference in the beach tree community since this first bunch was arrested. We can tell the deaths and overdoses have gone down," said Lawson.
They say that will be good for northeast Tennessee; they say Hawkins, Sullivan and Greene County residents and other parts of east Tennessee are safer.
We're told the investigation continues as officials search for other people they believe are involved. The 32 who are awaiting sentencing face up to 20 years in prison.
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