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Press Release

Distributing Methamphetamine And Selling Firearms Illegally Sends Unicoi Market Operator To Federal Prison For 46 Months

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Tennessee

GREENEVILLE, Tenn.- Billy Joe Rice, 55, of Unicoi County, was sentenced on September 5, 2013, to serve 46 months in federal prison by the Honorable Leon Jordan, U.S. District Judge. Rice pleaded guilty in August 2012 to a federal indictment charging him with distribution of methamphetamine and dealing firearms without a license. Upon his release from prison, Rice will serve three years of supervised release.

A three year investigation revealed that Rice was buying and selling firearms, some of which were stolen, from a market he operated in Unicoi, Tenn. He did not have a federal firearms license. Investigators learned that Rice was also acquiring materials for the manufacture of methamphetamine and distributing methamphetamine.

Law enforcement agencies participating in this investigation which lead to the indictment and subsequent conviction of Rice included the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department, Erwin Police Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Reeves represented the United States.

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian praised the law enforcement agencies involved for eliminating an outlet for stolen firearms, and reducing the possibilities that the firearms will fall into the hands of felons and other drug dealers.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a comprehensive national strategy that creates local partnerships with law enforcement agencies to effectively enforce existing gun laws. It provides more options to prosecutors, allowing them to utilize local, state, and federal laws to ensure that criminals who commit gun crimes face tough sentences. PSN gives each federal district the flexibility it needs to focus on individual challenges that a specific community faces.

Updated March 18, 2015