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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Virginia

Friday, September 28, 2018

Federal, State, and Local Authorities Charge 28 Individuals on Federal Drug Charges as part of Operation California Dreamin’

Alleged Conspiracy Trafficked Methamphetamine between California and Southwest Virginia/Northeast Tennessee/Georgia

Abingdon, VIRGINIA – Twenty-eight individuals suspected of trafficking methamphetamine from Southern California into Southwest Virginia, Northeast Tennessee, and Georgia have been charged via a federal criminal complaint with conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen was joined in announcing the arrests by officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, and the Sullivan County, Tennessee Second Judicial Drug Task Force.

“Although the opioid epidemic has gripped many communities in our district, methamphetamine is still the drug of choice in Southwest Virginia,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated.  “We are committed to working with the DEA, the ATF, the Virginia State Police, and our local partners to target the organizations and individuals responsible for trafficking this deadly drug and send them to federal prison.”

“ATF is committed to dismantling criminal organizations like this one and protecting the communities where they operate,” said Special Agent in Charge Thomas L. Chittum, Washington Field Division. “We are proud to work alongside our local, state and federal partners on operations like this, and will continue to do everything we can to take armed criminals off our streets and put them behind bars where they belong.”

In early 2017, an investigation was opened to examine the trafficking of methamphetamine between California and Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee. According to the criminal complaint and supporting affidavit filed in court following today’s arrests, 28 individuals, located in California, Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee were identified as allegedly being involved in the trafficking and distribution of methamphetamine.

In addition, the investigation further revealed that some alleged sources of supply from California temporarily relocated to the Bristol, Virginia and Tennessee region in order to better facilitate their drug distribution operations.

Those charged today included:

  • Shawn Wayne Farris
  • Sean Phillip Maidlow
  • Jair Medina Gutierrez
  • Lacey Cheri Weir
  • Andrea Nichole Stickel
  • James Nicholas Howington
  • James Robert Johnson
  • Stephen A. Graham
  • Christopher Lee Smiley
  • Joshua Todd Chapman
  • Saleemah Lashawn Roberson
  • Donald Zachary Snyder
  • James Skyler Sebastian
  • Larry Levi Bennett
  • Terry Melvin Dalton
  • Heather Ashley Davis
  • Brianna Nicole Woodby
  • Donald Shane Hawthorne
  • Gary Lee McFarlane
  • Elizabeth Pauline Eaton
  • Matthew Todd Mullins
  • Anthony Chadwick Harless
  • Kimberly Ann Drake
  • Brandon Heath Whitt
  • Melissa Darlene Barrett
  • Susan Nicole Payne
  • Bradley Scott Williams
  • Devon Scott Coleman


The investigation of the case is being conducted by the Abingdon Police Department, Virginia State Police, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Bristol, Tennessee Police Department, Bristol, Virginia Police Department, the Sullivan County, Tennessee Second Judicial Drug Task Force, Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department, Commerce, Georgia Police Department, New Jersey State Police, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the United States Postal Inspection Service.  The Washington County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Bristol, Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, and the Sullivan County, District Attorney’s Office have assisted in the investigation.  Western District of Virginia Criminal Chief Zachary T. Lee will prosecute the case for the United States.

A criminal complaint is only a charge and not evidence of guilt.  The defendants are entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated September 28, 2018