The Eastern District of Tennessee is a member of the Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) which was created in 1998. Currently, there are 32 areas in the nation that have been designated as HIDTAs. The HIDTA Program began in 1988 when Congress authorized the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to designate areas within the United States which exhibit serious drug trafficking problems and harmfully impact other areas of the country as HIDTAs. The HIDTA Program provides additional federal resources to those areas to help eliminate or reduce drug trafficking and its harmful consequences. In the Eastern District of Tennessee, HIDTA funds DEA and FBI led drug task forces in Johnson City, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, as well other initiatives to reduce drug crime in the HIDTA. Twenty-three counties (Bledsoe, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Franklin, Grainger, Greene, Grundy, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Knox, Marion, Rhea, Roane, Scott, Sequatchie, Sevier, Unicoi, Van Buren, and White) in the Eastern District of Tennessee have been designated as HIDTA counties.
Law enforcement organizations within HIDTAs assess drug trafficking problems and design specific initiatives to reduce or eliminate the production, manufacture, transportation, distribution and chronic use of illegal drugs and money laundering. The HIDTA Program helps improve the effectiveness and efficiency of drug control efforts by facilitating cooperation between drug control organizations through resource and information sharing, collocating and implementing joint initiatives. HIDTA funds help federal, state and local law enforcement organizations invest in infrastructure and joint initiatives to confront drug- trafficking organizations. Funds are also used for demand reduction and drug treatment initiatives. Some of the cases prosecuted by our office through the resources provided by Appalachian HIDTA include:
- The DEA AHIDTA Rocky Top Task Force in Knoxville investigated a cocaine trafficking conspiracy led by Toby Senter that operated in Cocke, Sevier, and Jefferson Counties. Senter, who had four prior felony drug convictions, was convicted in U.S. District Court in Knoxville and was sentenced to life in prison for his role in that conspiracy. The investigation also led to the discovery of significant evidence which was used in a subsequent prosecution of Senter in state court in a first-degree murder case which was committed during the course of the drug conspiracy. Senter is currently serving consecutive life sentences.
- An investigation code named “MICKEY MOUSE CLUB” targeted a sophisticated drug trafficking and money laundering organization responsible for multiple kilogram amounts of cocaine and crack cocaine being supplied from the Atlanta, Georgia area, and distributed in and around Morristown, Tennessee. On July 14, 2008, a federal grand jury sitting in Greeneville, Tennessee, returned a superseding indictment charging a total of 32 people on 103 separate counts of drug-related charges. The individuals were charged in a conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and crack cocaine. In addition to the conspiracy charges, numerous defendants were also charged with money laundering offenses, possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking and maintaining a residence for the purpose of manufacturing and/or storing crack cocaine. The indictment also included money judgments for drug trafficking and money laundering each in the amount of $2,000,000.00 against nine individuals which represented the minimum amount of proceeds obtained as a result of the drug trafficking and money laundering used to facilitate the conspiracy. All defendants have entered into plea agreements admitting their involvement in the conspiracy. The indictment was the result of a multi-state, multi-agency investigation involving the FBI’s HIDTA Task Force, the OCDETF Strike Force in Atlanta, Georgia, the Morristown Police Department, the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office, and the TBI. Assistance was also rendered by the Atlanta, Georgia Police Department, and the ATF as well as the United States Attorneys Offices in the Northern Districts of Georgia and Florida.
- A Winchester AHIDTA case involved an extensive cooperative investigation by ATF, TBI, and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and focused on several individuals in a conspiracy to sell crack cocaine in the Winchester, Tennessee area. Law enforcement agents established an elaborate investigation using a confidential informant, undercover police officer, and audio and video recordings of controlled buys. The case had a significant impact on that community. Seven defendants were convicted and received sentences averaging 13 years.
For more information about the Appalachian HIDTA and the national program visit http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/hidta.
Recent AHIDTA Cases: