One of the highest-value targets in a Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department undercover drug sting may have cleared a path for himself into federal court, an HCSD narcotics detective said this morning.

When deputies arrived at home of Derell Bryant on Friday to arrest him for allegedly selling cocaine, Opana and Suboxone, they allegedly spotted marijuana in plain view. The deputies took Bryant, 40, into custody, consulted with a judge and then returned with a search warrant, according to Lt. Gene Watson, who heads up narcotics investigations for the sheriff’s department.

In addition to more than $22,000 in suspected drug-sales proceeds, eight Opanas, three gabapentins and 2 grams of marijuana, the deputies also confiscated five pistols, a shotgun and a 7.62mm rifle. Bryant is a convicted felon and cannot legally possess firearms or ammunition.

Watson says he’ll be consulting with the U.S attorney’s office to learn whether or not they’ll transfer Bryant’s case to U.S. District Court in Greeneville. Watson says the rifle appears to have been shortened. Possession of an unregistered shortened rifle is a separate federal offense.

By late this morning, 12 of the 24 suspected drug dealers indicted in connection with Operation Iron Justice had been taken into custody or located. All the alleged drug transactions were audiotaped and some were videotaped, according to Watson.

Another Iron Justice defendant, 49-year-old Esther Pridemore, has already pleaded guilty in federal court in Knoxville to conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of crystal meth. Pridemore, a convicted felon who allegedly sold meth to an informant on two occasions, faces a presumptive 10-year federal prison term.

Ricardo Yeary, 51, and his wife, Holly Yeary, 46, were indicted for allegedly selling Suboxone. Yeary allegedly participated in four transactions. His wife allegedly sold to an informant on two occasions.

The primary sources of Suboxone are pain-management clinics, according to Watson. Suboxone is commonly prescribed as a treatment for opiod addiction. Watson says patients obtain the drug legally, and then sell some of the Suboxone strips as a source of income.

A Suboxone strip sells for $25 or $30. Watson says some addicts take Suboxone as it was intended, placing the strips under their tongues. Others leach the active ingredient, buprenorphine, from the strips and then inject the drug with a syringe, according to Watson.

The others indicted in connection with Operation Iron Justice and their drug-distribution charges are:

Amanda Blair, 33, two counts Suboxone; Deloris Kinsler, 55, two counts Suboxone; Samuel Ward, 35, three counts marijuana and illegal firearm possession; Jerrad Arrington, 37, meth; Amanda Massengill, 34, meth; Kristen Dalton, 25, three counts meth; Tosha Brown, 33, two counts meth; and Christopher James, 25, two counts meth.