Operation Pill Sweep nets 19 arrests so far

Published 9:25 am Monday, August 22, 2011

Hill: Operation could continue indefinitely
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has arrested 19 people so far in its Operation Pill Sweep, an undercover investigation to get illegal prescriptions off the street.
Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill originally had warrants for approximately 20 suspects, but Hill says the operation will likely never be concluded.
Hill said the operation began after residents complained about illegal prescription medication being sold in neighborhoods, so he knew it was time to do something about it.
“We just knew there was a problem and the public was concerned about it,” Hill said. “Apparently, there was more going on than we thought.”
The sheriff’s office partnered with the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and began purchasing illegal prescription pills undercover last year. The sheriff’s office/SBI early on had purchased more than 2,000 illegal prescriptions. The money to purchase the drugs comes from the state.
Hill said normally the arrest is done during the drug transaction, so most of the money used to purchase the drugs has been recovered during the arrest. Drug money is also taxed, so agencies eventually get money back for drug arrests.
During a recent Polk County Grand Jury session, held the week of July 25, three true bills of indictments were handed down for arrests in the operation. Hill said another arrest is expected later this month for trafficking morphine.
Arrests in the operation began in May 2011 with charges involving everything from marijuana to cocaine, morphine, opium and heroin. Suspects who have committed illegal drug transactions in front of children, have also been charged with child abuse.
Hill said from the beginning he will not negotiate these cases and is hoping for full sentencing. One man arrested during the operation is facing a life sentence for selling illegal prescription pills. Hill also said from the beginning it doesn’t matter who the suspects are, if they are selling prescriptions they will be arrested. Arrests have included men and women, young and old from different races and social statuses.
No cases associated with the operation have been concluded in court yet.
The sheriff’s office sees many overdoses of its citizens and Hill said he is sick of the abuse of prescription medication in Polk County.
Due to the number of people being arrested, Hill said the operation could continue indefinitely.
Arrests have slowed recently due to the sheriff’s office entering another phase of the operation. Hill said the narcotic evidence must be sent to an SBI laboratory to be certified before the sheriff’s office can proceed with indictments. He said his office indicts suspects as lab results come in.
The sheriff’s office and SBI have been assisted by other agencies during Operation Pill Sweep, including the U.S. Veteran’s Affairs, the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office and the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office.

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