Asheville man faces life sentence

Published 9:30 am Thursday, June 16, 2011

Other arrests made in Pill Sweep

An Asheville man is facing a life sentence for selling illegal drugs in Polk County.

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The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested Tommy Lee Johnson, of 63 Bingham Rd., Lot 45, Asheville, N.C., and charged him with five counts of trafficking opium or heroin, trafficking cocaine, selling and delivering cocaine and six counts of maintaining a vehicle to distribute narcotics, according to police reports.

Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill said Johnson is a habitual felon and was bringing large amounts of narcotics to Polk County to sell.

Johnson was arrested in conjunction with a nine-month undercover operation conducted by the sheriff’s office called Operation Pill Sweep.

Also arrested in Operation Pill Sweep recently were Alvin Keith McKinney, of 65 Mill Run Rd., Mill Spring, and Marlon Shane Ruff, of 190 Ruff Acres, Mill Spring.

The sheriff’s office charged McKinney with felony manufacturing a schedule VI controlled substance and possession of growing paraphernalia, according to police reports.

Ruff was charged with selling and delivering marijuana and maintaining a vehicle to deliver marijuana, according to reports.

Sheriff Hill said the operation continues and more arrests will be made over the next few weeks.

The operation has involved the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Veteran’s Affairs and the Buncombe County, N.C., and Spartanburg County, S.C. sheriff’s offices.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office estimates it has purchased approximately 2,000 illegal prescription pills during the undercover operation over the past nine months. A total of more than 20 suspects are expected to be arrested.

Hill said charges relating to many other drugs besides illegal prescription medications have been issued, including cocaine, heroin, opium and marijuana. A couple of suspects have also been charged with child abuse, because of illegal transactions allegedly done in the presence of children, according to Hill.

McKinney was released on a written promise, Ruff was given $10,000 bond and Johnson was given a $500,000 bond, according to the sheriff’s office.