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Sisters Found Guilty on Drug, Obstruction Charges

BIG STONE GAP, VIRGINIA -- Following a three-day trial in U.S. District Court in Big Stone Gap, two sisters from Pennington Gap, Va. were found guilty of charges related to drug distribution and obstruction of justice.

Thelma Newton, 46 and her sister, Stephanie Newton, 30, were indicted along with James Crabtree in November 2010. Monday evening at approximately 8:45 p.m., a jury returned guilty verdicts against Thelma Newton on one count of conspiracy to distribute OxyContin, xanax and lortabs, one count of obstruction of justice and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The jury found Stephanie Newton guilty on one count of conspiracy to distribute xanax, one count of obstruction of justice, one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and one count of making false statements. Crabtree previously pled guilty to related charges.

"The abuse of prescription drugs plagues communities in Southwest Virginia and all over America," United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said today. "The Newton sisters enriched themselves by fraudulently obtaining and reselling these highly addictive medications. This case shows that we will vigorously pursue those who peddle this poison and attempt to profit from the addition of others."

This case was centered around individuals obtaining prescription drugs from doctors and then distributing these narcotics in Lee County, Va. Evidence presented at trial by Assistant United States Attorney Zachary Lee proved that both Stephanie and Thelma Newton were involved with a conspiracy that distributed narcotics throughout the region.

In addition, it was proven that the night before officers executed three search warrants and attempted to arrest 13 federal defendants, Stephanie and Thelma Newton conspired to contact several of the targets and tip them off about the next day's scheduled takedown operation in St. Charles, Va. When offices attempted to search and/or arrest the targets the following day, many of them were missing from their places of residence. Witnesses testified that Stephanie and Thelma Newton instructed the targets to leave their homes and get rid of any illegal drugs that were in possession of.

"The actions of these two individuals posed a tremendous risk to the lives of the officers tasked with executing those search warrants," United States Attorney Heaphy added. "We will not allow common criminals to put the lives of law enforcement officers at risk."

At sentencing, both defendants face a maximum possible penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Lee County Sheriff"s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Zachary Lee prosecuted the case for the United States.

March 1, 2011 www.usdoj.gov