News Release
March 22, 2006

Major Drug Trafficking Organizations Broken In Middle Tennessee Region By Federal, State, and Local Agencies

March 22-[CHATTANOOGA, TN] Arrests were executed today pursuant to two 47 count indictments, returned on March 14, 2006, by a federal grand jury sitting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, charging a total of 32 defendants with drug trafficking offenses.

The first indictment charges Juan Valentin, 29, from Tullahoma, Tennessee; James Lee Cyree, 21, from Tullahoma, Tennessee; Chis Robinson, also known as “Webb,” 34, from Winchester, Tennessee; Marion Hernandez, 29, from Mexico; Jason Hogan, 26, from Tullahoma, Tennessee; Patrick Triplett, 22, from Manchester, Tennessee; Avery Ferrell, 35, from Manchester, Tennessee; Billy Cyree, 28, from Tullahoma, Tennessee; Eric Kinslow, 30, from Winchester, Tennessee; Eric Anderson, 25, from Tullahoma, Tennessee; Troy Allison, 29, from South Pittsburg, Tennessee; Beverly Hargrove, 56, from Tullahoma, Tennessee; Jerame Watkins, 24, from Tullahoma, Tennessee; Roy Hargrove, 57, from Tullahoma, Tennessee; Michael Sibert, 21, from Tullahoma, Tennessee; Joshua Jackson, 23, from Winchester, Tennessee; Rex Nunley, 25, from Tullahoma, Tennessee; and, Jeremy Marion, 33, from Tullahoma, Tennessee, with conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine hydrochloride (cocaine powder) and 100 kilograms or more of marijuana during a three year period (December, 2003 through March 2006). If convicted, the defendants face a mandatory minimum of ten years to life on this charge. Juan Valentin is also charged with distributing marijuana on two occasions and distributing cocaine on one occasion. Valentin faces up to five years if convicted of distributing marijuana and up to 20 years if convicted of distributing cocaine. Mario Hernandez is charged with possessing with intent to distribute cocaine on one occasion as well. He faces up to 20 years if convicted of this charge. All of the defendants are charged with using telephones to facilitate the distribution of controlled substances. The maximum punishment for these offenses is up to four years in jail for each count.

The second indictment charges Joel Fernandez-Vargas, 37, from Shelbyville, Tennessee; Nicholas Hernandez, 28, from Tullahoma, Tennessee; William Carey Richard, 22, from Tullahoma, Tennessee; Jose Vargas, 55, from Shelbyville, Tennessee; Santos Solis, Jr., 27, from Tullahoma, Tennessee; Ramiro Onofre, 26, from Shelbyville, Tennessee; Armando Arzate, 32, from Dalton, Georgia; Francisco Javier Fernandez, 29, from Shelbyville, Tennessee; Mark Dalton, 23, from Lewisburg, Tennessee; Hugo Amaro, from Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Timothy Harris, 46, from Shelbyville, Tennessee; Oscar Alejandro Melgoza, 27, from Shelbyville, Tennessee; and, Shannon Prosser, 28, from Shelbyville, Tennessee, with conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine hydrochloride and 100 kilograms or more of marijuana from June 2005 through March 2006. Both Joel Fernandez-Vargas and Nicholas Hernandez are charged with distributing cocaine on two occasions. Jose Vargas and Shannon Prosser are each charged with distributing cocaine on one occasion. Joel Fernandez-Vargas is also charged with distributing methamphetamine on one occasion. All defendants are charged with using a telephone to facilitate the distribution of controlled substances.

The defendants arrested today are scheduled to appear in United States District Court in Chattanooga, Tennessee, tomorrow, March 23, 2006, before United States Magistrate Judge William B. Carter.

The indictments and subsequent arrests were announced today by James R. "Russ" Dedrick, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, Harry S. Sommers, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration, Sheriff Mark Logan of the Moore County Sheriff’s Department and Chief J.C. Ferrell of the Tullahoma Police Department. Acting U.S. Attorney Dedrick stated that the indictments are the result of investigations which involved several different agencies, who worked closely together over the past several months. “These cases are further examples of what can be accomplished when local, state and federal law enforcement agencies pool their resources to target drug trafficking organizations. I am proud of the hard work and the partnerships demonstrated by the all the law enforcement agencies involved.”

Primary agencies involved in the ongoing investigation include the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (AHIDTA) Southeast Tennessee Task Force (comprised of members of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, Chattanooga Police Department, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee Alcohol Beverage Commission), Tullahoma Police Department, Moore County Sheriff’s Department, and 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force. Several other agencies have provided support to the investigations, including the Coffee County, Bedford County, Franklin County, Marion County, Marshall County, and Rutherford County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Departments; Whitfield County, Georgia Sheriff’s Department; Police Departments from Lewisburg and Shelbyville, Tennessee; as well as Dalton, Georgia; Tennessee’s 14th and 21st Judicial District Drug Task Forces; Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI); Tennessee Highway Patrol; Tennessee National Guard; Tennessee Department of Revenue; Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Department of Homeland Security; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF); and, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE).

Anyone who has knowledge of the whereabouts of the remaining defendants, who are currently at large, is encouraged to contact the DEA in Chattanooga at (423) 855-6600. Members of the public are reminded that indictments contain only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Perry Piper, Robert Anderson and James Brooks have been assigned to prosecute the cases. For further information contact Acting United States Attorney Russ Dedrick, at 865-545-4167, AUSAs Piper, Anderson, or Brooks in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chattanooga at (423) 752-5140, or Public Information Officer Sharry Dedman-Beard, at 865-545-4167.