The largest drug roundup in Hancock County history – code-named Taking Back Hancock County, Phase I – is in full swing, and some of those indicted by a state grand jury on July 22 very likely will face federal charges, according to Sheriff Brad Brewer.

By Saturday evening, 31 of the 45 suspects were custody, and search for the remaining 14 – most of whom allegedly sold crystal meth or opiate prescription drugs to informants during recorded and monitored transactions – was to resume today, according to Brewer.

The sheriff says the undercover buys, using informants run by the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and Third Judicial District Drug Task Force, began in September 2018, the same month he was sworn into office, and will continue unabated.

“I will be following through with this in the future,” said Brewer, who says the roundup began Thursday morning. “There’s going to be more … Some of them (that were indicted) ‘got ghost’ on me.

“Methamphetamine destroys families,” he added. “Their children become afraid. Their spouses become afraid, and they start calling law enforcement. It destroys (the users). They don’t eat, and they’re up for days.”

Forty-five defendants would be a large roundup for the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department or the Morristown Police Department. In Hancock County, the impact of taking 45 alleged drug dealers off the street is magnified.

Hamblen County has a population that’s about 10 times larger Hancock County. If a proportionate number of Hamblen County residents had been indicted, the total would be 438, with 302 already in custody.

The majority of the defendants arrested so far are charged with selling prescription drugs, but crystal-meth use is on the rise, according to Detective Jesse Trent.

Brewer says most of the crystal meth reaching Hancock County comes from Atlanta, via Morristown. The sheriff says that Hancock County dealers typically by ounces, and then sell smaller quantities to users.

“They don’t have enough money to buy it by the pound,” Brewer said.

The sheriff staunchly declined to identify defendants whose cases could be transferred to U.S. District Court in Greeneville for federal prosecution, which will mean more prison time if they’re convicted.

The leading candidate, however, appears to be Robert “B.J.” Kinsler, a 38-year old man who lives on Beech Street in Sneedville. The grand jury indicted him for allegedly selling meth, Suboxone, unspecified Schedule IV and V drugs and marijuana, maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of selling drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The charges that elevate the chances Kinsler will face federal charges are possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a firearm during a dangerous felony and unlawful possession of a machine gun. His underlying felony is fourth offense DUI, according to Trent.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the district attorney’s office and investigators with the Office of Inspector General also participated in Taking Back Hancock County.

“The help of these agencies has been a tremendous resource in the sheriff’s department’s efforts to keep our county a safe place for all those who live here,” Brewer said. “We encourage the assistance of the public in reporting suspicious and illegal activities.”

Brewer, Trent and Detective Bill Evans are members of the Third DTF.

Those with information about illegal activity are encouraged to call the sheriff’s department at 423-733-2250. Brewer says callers can remain anonymous upon request.

Those arrested thus far and their charges follow. All 45 defendants live in Hancock County. All addresses are in Sneedville unless otherwise specified.

David C. Johnson, 59, Jarvis Street, three counts apiece delivery of meth and maintaining a drug dwelling;

Elmer R. Hurley Jr., 62, Sam Anderson Road, four counts delivery of Opana and violation of the drug-free school zone law;

Alex D. Livesay, 39, Manis Road, Eidson, delivery of meth and violation of the DFSZ law;

Kenny Curtis Wilder, 51, Brewers Chapel Road, delivery of meth and maintaining a drug dwelling;

Danny Gibson, 60, Mulberry Gap Road, five counts delivery of Opana and two counts maintaining a drug dwelling;

Jamie Keith Johnson, 44, Back Valley Road, three counts delivery of Opana and two counts of maintaining a drug dwelling;

Michael James Flanary, 50, Whitney Circle, three counts delivery of Opana, and maintaining a drug dwelling;

Billy Ferguson, 62, Ferguson Cemetery Road, delivery of Opana and maintaining a drug dwelling;

Billy Joe Crider, 63, Sunrise View, three counts delivery of an unspecified Schedule II drug;

Bob Monroe Collins, 59, Yount Town Road, Thorn Hill, two counts apiece of delivery of an unspecified Schedule II drug maintaining a drug dwelling;

Jamey Ray Waddell, 38, Main Street, delivery of Opana;

Ronald Boyer, 72, Woody Lane, two counts apiece of delivery of hydrocodone and maintaining a drug dwelling;

Dana Webster Seal, 75, Highway 70, Kyles Ford, delivery of a Schedule II drug;

Cindy Ann Childers, 49, Robert Road, delivery of Suboxone and violation of the state drug-free school zone law.

Charles Collins, 47, Johnson’s Ridge Road, four counts delivery of an unspecified Schedule II drug, maintaining a drug dwelling and violation of the DFSZ law;

Brian Wayne Kephart, 37, Manor Drive, three counts apiece of delivery of Suboxone, maintaining a drug dwelling and violation of the DFSZ law;

Jody Lynn Teal, 33, Jack Trent Road, three counts delivery of Suboxone and violation of the DFSZ law;

Joyce B. Harvey, 67, three counts apiece of delivery of Suboxone and maintaining a drug residence;

Lois Johnson, 54, Main Street, three counts delivery of Suboxone, violation of the DFSZ law and maintaining a drug dwelling;

Joshua Drew Barger, 34, Tazewell Highway, three counts delivery of Suboxone and maintaining a drug dwelling;

Troy Edward Nichols, 41, John McNeil Boulevard, three counts delivery of Suboxone, maintaining a drug dwelling and violation of the DFSZ law;

Courtney E. Hopkins, 28, Hugh Hopkins Road, three counts delivery of Suboxone;

Leona Lynn Lemons, 51, Highway 70, Kyles Ford, two counts delivery of Suboxone, facilitating the delivery of Suboxone and maintaining a drug dwelling;

Faron Dale Carroll, 52, Black Valley Road, two counts delivery of Suboxone, delivery of a Schedule V drug and three counts maintaining a drug dwelling;

Anderson L. Hall, 56, Black Valley Road, two counts apiece of delivery of Suboxone and maintaining a drug dwelling;

Eric Scott Hatfield, 36, Hopkins Street, delivery of Suboxone and violation of the DFSZ law;

Curtis Seals, 57, Highway 131, Thorn Hill, delivery of Suboxone and maintaining a drug dwelling;

Christopher Mathis, 46, Harrison Street, delivery of Suboxone;

Casey Kinsler, 40, Panther Creek Road, Kyles Ford, delivery of Suboxone;

Carl Ray Winstead, 75, two counts apiece of delivery of oxycodone, gabapentin and maintaining a drug dwelling and violation of the DFSZ law.