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Upshur, Lewis drug raid nets 20-plus arrests

by James Fisher

STAFF WRITER

Law enforcement officials from Upshur and Lewis counties, as well as numerous state and federal agencies teamed up Tuesday to conduct a massive drug sweep that netted more than 20 arrests and the seizure of drugs, guns and money.

The undercover operation has been on-going for nearly nine months, said Upshur County Sheriff Larry Marsh. Tuesday's sweep involved sheriff's deputies, Buckhannon and Weston city police officers, federal drug enforcement agents, local drug task force members, state police troopers and members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the West Virginia Air National Guard.

"It was a long, arduous task," said Lewis County Sheriff Robert Rinehart. "We started in July making several buys off each person each week. We came across an informant and it just started growing."

Rinehart said a partnership was forged between the two counties to allow mutual aid and federal money was obtained for officer overtime as well as seed money to purchase drugs.

Officials from both counties said the arrests came off without a hitch Tuesday. While Upshur County officials had been ready to go for a while, the sweep was delayed while officers waited for the Lewis County grand jury to return several sealed indictments in connection with the operation.

"We weren't sure until the indictments were returned whether there would be any overlapping or connection between the people in the two counties, so we waited," Marsh said. "We wanted to hit everyone at the same time and not give anyone a chance to warn someone."

Marsh said more arrests were pending in connection with the investigation and those arrested Tuesday could face additional charges at a later date.

All those arrested in Upshur County were charged with either one or two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, according to magistrate court officials. Those arrested and charged were:

Larry Hoover, 48, of Route 6, one count, released on $20,000 bond; Mary Conn, 24, of 809 Valley Green, one count, incarcerated on $20,000 bond; Craig Rice, 24, of Route 1, one count, released on $20,000 bond;

Kimberly Gregory, 33, of 81 Randolph St., one count, released on $20,000 bond; Donna Hunt, 39, of 804 Valley Green, one count, released on $20,000 bond; Carol Labno, 42, of 301 Valley Green, two counts, $40,000 bond, no information whether incarcerated or released; Bobby Joe Winnings, 34, of Route 6, two counts, released on $60,000 bond; Frank Verton, 33, of 112 Wood St., one count, incarcerated on $20,000 bond; Natasha Hedgecock, 28, of 112 Wood St., one count, incarcerated on $20,000 bond; and Brian DeMastes, 29, of 804 Valley Green, one count, released on $20,000 bond.

Those arrested in Lewis County and charged with delivery of a controlled substance were:

Clarence Thompson, $20,000 bond; David Pickens, $20,000 bond; Marcus Strader, $10,000 bond; James Taylor, $7,500 bond; and Bruce Cutright, $30,000 bond. No information was available whether any of those charged were able to post bond.

Others arrested in Lewis County Tuesday were:

Emmanulle Robinson Jr., felony delivery of a controlled substance and delivery of an imitation controlled substance, $30,000 bond; Harvey John, delivery of a controlled substance and conspiracy, $10,000 bond; John Kirkpatrick, delivery of a controlled substance and conspiracy, $10,000 bond; Brian Morrison, delivery of a controlled substance and conspiracy, $10,000 bond; John Lowe, delivery of a controlled substance and conspiracy, $10,000 bond; Bradley J. Young, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, conspiracy, forgery and uttering and conspiracy, $22,500 bond; French King, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and conspiracy, $7,500 bond. No information was available whether any of the defendants had posted bond.

Circuit Judge Thomas Keadle has scheduled arraignments for all defendants on Friday, according to Lewis County Circuit Court records.

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