Drug Bust

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Suspects, from 17 to 74, in cuffs following drug arrests

By John Howell Sr.
Panola County Sheriff Otis Griffin said that 22 of 31 suspects indicted for drug sales had been jailed following arrests that began last Thursday.

Officers from at least six agencies combined forces to begin arresting suspects at their homes at 5 a.m. Thursday morning.

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“I really appreciated the help we got from the other agencies. All of us are looking at the same, common goal – trying to clean up some of the drugs that’s out there,” the sheriff said.

Addresses of suspects included Crenshaw, Como, Sardis, Batesville and Courtland. Ages ranged from 17 to 74. Names of suspects who have been taken into custody are included in the arrest log, page A11.

Griffin said that three suspects were determined to have left the state and would be pursued by the U. S. Marshal’s service, one of the agencies that participated with the local officers.

“We think we’ve got one or two here in the county that are aware we’re looking for them and they’re just hiding,” the sheriff added. One of those arrested Friday was a walk-in, an option the sheriff encouraged in a statement on Thursday.

Griffin cited increasing illicit traffic in prescription drugs, including hydrocodone, as the basis for much of the drug trafficking detected by officers of the Panola Narcotics Task Force.

“It’s about the pills – pills  and crystal meth,” Griffin said. “It was crack cocaine.”

The sheriff said that prescription pain pills are obtained through a variety of schemes, including patients who go to a doctor feigning back pain to obtain a prescription and who then sell the pills for “ … $10, $12, $20. It depends on how they market it.”

“Elderly people have to be careful who they let in their house,” Griffin continued, describing how older citizens are often victims of thieves looking for pain medication. “The first thing they’re going to do is go to the medicine cabinet.”

Another scheme that law enforcement officers have detected begins when a person with a prescription for a pain medication makes a false report of a burglary, claiming that their prescription medication has been stolen. The person then requests a copy of the law enforcement agency’s incident report. They take a copy of the report back to their doctor who then authorizes a refill to replace the pills alleged to have been stolen.

The patient ends up with double dose of pills easily that are easily sold in the illicit market, Griffin said.

Crystal meth can now be manufactured in a lab small enough to fit in the trunk of a car, the sheriff added.

Agencies participating in Thursday’s arrest, in addition to the Panola Narcotics Task Force and the U. S. Marshal’s service, included other officers of the Panola County Sheriff’s Department, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, and the police departments of Sardis and Batesville.

“If they’re sellling drugs, we’re going to find out about it. They’ve got friends, buddies, family — they’re going to pass it on,” the sheriff said.