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‘Operation Lifesaver’: 18 indicted in major Unicoi Co. drug sting

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: Feb 18 2013 04:58:53 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 18 2013 08:33:03 PM CST

About a dozen officers were dispatched across the County to serve warrants on eighteen indictments for people now facing drug charges.

UNICOI COUNTY, Tenn. -

A three-month-long drug sting ends in multiple arrests in Unicoi County, Tennessee.

Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley said 18 people were indicted Friday as part of a major undercover crackdown on drugs targeting prescription drug abuse.

It's called 'Operation Lifesaver'.

This morning about a dozen officers were dispatched across the county to serve warrants on those 18 indictments for people now facing drug charges. We tagged along and learned in one case officers found more than they bargained for.

With guns drawn, Unicoi County sheriff's deputies put up a fight Monday morning against drug abuse. Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley believes a home on love station road has been a hub for drug sales in the county for months, maybe even years. "We've had this undercover operation going on for several months, and undercover officers have been to this resident and bought drugs from the individuals we have arrested [Monday].," said Hensley.

Four people were arrested at the house and taken to jail. The house was turned into a crime scene, and the vehicle on the front lawn was confiscated.

We found investigators searching through evidence. The sheriff said officers did discover prescription drugs inside the home; ones they believe were sold just feet away from Love Chapel Elementary School.

The sheriff said not only were prescription drugs found at the residence, but they also found components of a meth lab. "We've had a serious problem in Unicoi County, and we're working on it as we speak," said the sheriff.

As neighbors watched the investigation unfold, we learned it's a relief for some of them, who said they have suspected drug activity. "We have been absolutely scared to death for our life for a long time," said Julia Franklin, a neighbor.

"You know, I'm not surprised, because there was too much activity going in and out of that house," neighbor Linda Purchase told us.

With this drug bust being just one of many happening Monday, Sheriff Hensley was sending a message to anyone doing or dealing drugs. "If they're going to deal drugs in Unicoi County, they need to go somewhere else. We take it very, very seriously," Hensley said.

We're told the investigation targeted prescription drug abuse, but undercover officers have also bought meth, marijuana, and 'mushrooms' from suspects.

We learned about 20 people have been arrested in this undercover operation.