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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                          Sept. 29, 2011                   

SIX MORE INDIVIDUALS ARRESTED AS PART OF SOUTHERN WEST VIRGINIA PRESCRIPTION DRUG DISTRIBUTION CRACKDOWN

Eight Individuals Arrested in June Have Already Entered Guilty Pleas

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin today announced that five Mercer County residents have been charged in indictments for allegedly illegally distributing prescription drugs.  A sixth individual who had evaded capture from a prior sweep in June was also arrested during this latest roundup.  The indictments were unsealed following the arrest of each defendant and their subsequent initial appearances in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. 

The charges against each defendant have been brought as a part of the Bluefield Pill Initiative (BPI), which is a part of a comprehensive plan aimed at eliminating the illegal distribution of prescription drugs in the southern region of West Virginia announced by U.S. Attorney Goodwin in June.

"Prescription drug abuse has ravaged families and communities across the country. No place has been hit any harder than the area around Bluefield," said U.S. Attorney Goodwin.

"Today, I'm pleased to announce that we're turning the tide," Goodwin continued. "The first wave of our initiative has been a striking success, with eight dealers convicted and off the streets in just a few months.

That's a testament to what can be accomplished when government at every level joins together with committed citizens to attack a problem. This next round of prosecutions reaffirms our resolve to put the pill pushers out of business."

Paul Hoston, 46, was charged with four counts of distribution of a quantity of hydromorphone; Katie Slaughter, 23, was charged with distribution of hydromorphone; Regina Frye, 41, was charged with four counts distribution of a quantity of hydromorphone and one count of possession with intent to distribute a quantity of hydromorphone; Sheila Smith, 47, was charged with two counts of distribution of a quantity of oxycodone and two counts of distribution of a quantity of hydrocodone; Thomas Sheppheard, 34, three counts of distribution of a quantity of hydromorphone.

In June, U.S. Attorney Goodwin announced the indictment of nine individuals for illegally dealing prescription drugs in the Bluefield and Princeton areas as part of the first series of prosecutions under the Bluefield Pill Initiative. One of the nine individuals, Michael W. McBride, 35, of Lerona, W.Va., had previously evaded capture but was arrested during this latest sweep. The other eight individuals have all since entered plea agreements.  Those defendants are: Latosha Lynette Brown, 29, of Bluefield, W.Va., distribution of a quantity of hydromorphone;  Roger Lee Stables, Jr., 44, of Montcalm, W.Va., distribution of a quantity of marijuana for remuneration and Viney Jean Stables, 32, of Montcalm, W.Va., aiding and abetting the distribution of a quantity of oxycodone; Steven C. Alt, 29, of Keyser, W.Va., aiding and abetting the distribution of a quantity of hydromorphone; Roman Brandon Simmons, 27, of Bluefield, W.Va., distribution of a quantity of hydromorphone; Ashley Hylton, 21, of Bluefield, W.Va., distribution of hydromorphone; Niketa Whittaker, 21, of Athens, W.Va., distribution of hydromorphone; Chanty Annette Green, 30, of Bluefield, W.Va., distribution of hydromorphone. 

The Bluefield Pill Initiative (BPI) is a collaborative, multi-agency regional law enforcement effort designed to halt prescription drug trafficking specifically in Mercer, McDowell, and Wyoming Counties.  The Bluefield Pill Initiative is led by the Southern Regional Drug and Violent Crime Task Force which is made up of the West Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Sheriffs’ Departments of Mercer, McDowell and Wyoming County, as well as the Bluefield and Princeton Police Departments. 

An indictment is merely a charge and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.  If convicted, each defendant faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

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