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Gang Robbing Pharmacies for Drugs get the 'Hammer'

To crack down on the rising number of violent drug store robberies targeting prescription painkillers, federal authorities Tuesday whipped out their most effective tool - "the hammer."

The "hammer" is a moniker for federal gun charges that carry mandatory prison terms that are stacked onto the sentences of any underlying crimes and grow progressively higher with each application...

The group is accused in a particularly violent string of drug store robberies in Knoxville and Bristol in which shots were fired, employees threatened at gunpoint and at least one clerk bashed against a safe...

There was a large spike in armed pharmacy robberies in East Tennessee last year, particularly in the Knoxville area," U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said in a announcing the indictment. Pharmacy robberies and attemped robberies jumped from 26 in 2009 to 44 in 2010. Investigators worked 10 of those cases in December alone. There were five in the first few weeks of 2011.

Ref. http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2011/feb/16/defendants-face-hammer-in-drug-store-robberies/

U.S. Attorney's Office February 15, 2011, Eastern District of Tennessee (865) 545-4167

Knoxville, TN-A federal grand jury in Knoxville returned a 13-count indictment charging Daniel D. Gibson, 23, Donald G. Hopson Jr., 56, and Mortan Dean Moore, 43, all of Knoxville, Tenn., and Dewyatt A. Hill, 54, of Bristol, Tenn., with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and the armed robbery of several east Tennessee pharmacies during the fall of 2010.

A fifth individual, James Lee Marable, 47, also of Knoxville, was separately charged in an information filed today with the armed robbery of one of those pharmacies. The defendants are charged with the armed robbery of four Knoxville-area pharmacies and one in Bristol.

The indictment alleges that Moore was the organizer of the conspiracy. He is accused of selecting the targets and planning each of the robberies, providing firearms for use in the robberies, and selling controlled substances taken in the robberies from a business he operated on Chapman Highway in Knoxville.

The indictment charges that Gibson actually participated in all five of the armed robberies named in the indictment, and also sets forth the robberies in which Hopson and Hill participated. Gibson is accused of being the individual who, in each robbery, leaped over the pharmacy counter and pointed a gun at the pharmacy employees.

The indictment reflects that two of the robberies were particularly violent, in that Gibson and a coconspirator on each occasion fired their guns inside the pharmacy. The indictment also alleges that, in a December 17, 2010, robbery of a CVS pharmacy in Bearden, Gibson actually grabbed a woman by the hair with a gun pointed to her head and slammed her head into the pharmacy safe as she was trying to open it.

The defendants accused in each robbery named in the indictment are charged with brandishing or discharging a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. If all four defendants are convicted as charged, they face significant mandatory minimum terms in prison, that is, Gibson and Moore face not less than 107 years, Hill not less than 57 years, and Hopson not less than 32 years.

Killian said, "There was a large spike in armed pharmacy robberies in east Tennessee last year, particularly in the Knoxville area. I am grateful that cooperation between federal and local law enforcement agencies resulted in the indictment of these crimes. The United States Attorney's Office will always pursue the prosecution of crimes of this nature."

Lambert praised the local law enforcement officers who worked with the FBI Safe Streets Task Force on this investigation. He said, "The Knoxville Police Department's Repeat Offender Squad contributed heavily to the success of this investigation. I am also grateful for the contributions of investigators from the Knox County Sheriffs Office."

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kelly Norris and Zachary Bolitho will represent the United States. Members of the public are reminded that an indictment constitutes only charges and that every person is presumed innocent until his or her guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.