On Monday (4/10/2018), the Rutherford County Sheriffs Office along with state and federal investigators seized almost $1.3 million worth of clandestine, lab-produced illegal pills and a powder to make Xanax.
Detectives seized more than 58,000 Xanax pills and one pound of pure Alprazolam powder during a search of two locations in the county, said Narcotics Detective Lt. Jason Mathis. The pills sell for about $5 each on the street.
Alprazolam powder, when mixed with binding agents, would produce approximately 200,000 dosage units of clandestinely produced Xanax.
The investigation determined the Xanax were not produced within a commercial pharmaceutical-grade laboratory, but rather were produced in a clandestine laboratory for distribution on the black market.
Narcotics Detective Sgt. Tony Hall said, "With clandestine labs, the dangers grow exponentially. The end user of the substance has no idea what substance or what quantity of controlled substance they are ingesting. Some earlier samples in a related case tested positive for fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent."
Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh said this shows the Sheriff's Office's commitment to combatting the illegal drugs coming into Rutherford County.
"What we are finding in illegal Xanax is that in 89 percent of the cases statewide, the deadly synthetic drug fentanyl is mixed into the pills," Fitzhugh said. "We will continue in our efforts to fight to keep these drugs out of Rutherford County."
Suspects Joseph Davis, 25, and Erica Dotson, 29, of Manson Pike were charged with felony possession of Schedule 4 drugs, maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of selling drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia. Davis was charged also with possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. Both Davis and Dotson face additional charges. (see photo below)
The case began in January when a U.S. Postal inspector provided information to Narcotics Detective Mike Hoekstra about suspicious packages, believed to contain narcotics, which were being shipped out of Murfreesboro to multiple locations throughout the U.S.
Through investigation, Hoekstra identified Davis and Dotson as the suspected parties for the packages.
In February, packages allegedly shipped by Davis and Dotson were intercepted by law enforcement and federal search warrants were obtained by the postal inspector.
During a search of these packages, approximately 8,300 dosage units of Xanax were recovered with a street value of $41,500.
Investigators from the Tactical Diversion Squad, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Food and Drug Administration collaborated with Detective Hoekstra and the postal inspector.
Search warrants were executed Monday at two locations within Rutherford County relating to the case by the Sheriff's Office Narcotics Unit, U.S. Postal Inspectors and Investigators from the DEA's Tactical Diversion Squad, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Food and Drug Administration.
U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge David M. McGinnis said, "This is a great example of how law enforcement partnerships work together to keep communities safe from criminal activity. Together we will continue to be vigilant in disrupting criminal organizations who illegally utilize the U.S. Postal Service.
"The Postal Service has no interest in being the unwitting accomplice to anyone using the U.S. Mail to distribute illegal drugs or other harmful substances," McGinnis said. "Postal Inspectors objectives are to rid the mail of illicit drug trafficking, preserve the integrity of the mail and, most importantly, provide a safe environment for postal employees and the American public."
Davis is being held on $100,000 bond and Dotson is being held on $75,000 bond at Rutherford County Adult Detention Center while awaiting court hearings.