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Seized Marijuana Equipment Donated For Educational Use

October 17, 2012 Department of Justice
United States Attorney William C. Killian Eastern District of Tennessee
Seized Equipment From Sophisticated Marijuana Grow Operation In Washington And Sullivan Counties Donated By Local Law Enforcement For Educational Use

GREENEVILLE, Tenn.- On September 13, 2012, David Steven Alles, 54, of Johnson City, Tenn., was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Greeneville, by the Honorable Leon Jordan, U.S. District Court Judge, to serve 60 months in federal prison for his role in manufacturing well over 100 marijuana plants, utilizing numerous indoor grow site locations in both Washington and Sullivan Counties. Equipment used in these illegal operations was also forfeited by Alles to local law enforcement in Johnson City and Sullivan County, Tenn.

A press conference was held today at the Carver Recreation Center in Johnson City to announce the donation of the seized and forfeited growing equipment and materials from the Johnson City indoor grows by the Johnson City Police Department to the Johnson City Parks and Recreation Department. This equipment will be used for the express purpose of growing vegetables. Likewise, all of the growing equipment and materials seized and forfeited from the Bluff City indoor grows was donated by the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office to the Sullivan East High School Horticulture Department and Future Farmers of America Club to also grow vegetables.

U.S. Attorney William C. Killian stated, "Our prosecutors and the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies did a great job of working together to obtain and present the evidence in this case. I am pleased to see this equipment will now be used to teach young men and women important and constructive pursuits such as growing vegetables, instead of the illegal ones exemplified in this case. The arrests and convictions in this case resulted in the elimination of large quantities of marijuana being manufactured and distributed in the Eastern District of Tennessee. I want to thank all those involved in bringing these individuals to justice and for all those involved in creating this unique educational opportunity for the young men and women of Washington and Sullivan Counties."

"The Johnson City Police Department is pleased to have participated in this collaborative investigation, and for the opportunity to repurpose this equipment to our community's advantage," said Johnson City Chief of Police Mark Sirois.

Drug Enforcement Administration Group Supervisor Rob Bailess said, "DEA is pleased with the cooperative efforts and participation from the various law enforcement agencies that brought this case to a successful conclusion."

The investigation into Alles' marijuana operation culminated with law enforcement agents searching four separate locations in November 2011 in Bluff City and Johnson City, Tenn. These searches resulted in the seizure of 142 marijuana plants, over six pounds of processed marijuana, a shotgun, over $24,000.00 in cash and a very large supply of growing equipment, including lights, lamps, fans, potting soil and other grow related materials.

Alles admitted he had been growing marijuana for about a year and a half and selling it for $300.00 an ounce. By doing so, he invested his proceeds back into the operation and ultimately expanded from one indoor grow site to the ones that were discovered and searched by law enforcement. Alles also employed Steven Edward Wilkie, 22, of Johnson City, Tenn., to assist him in his indoor marijuana manufacturing operation. Wilkie was also sentenced by Judge Jordan to a term of 15 months in prison for his role in assisting in the marijuana grows.

Law enforcement agencies participating in the investigation which led to indictment and subsequent conviction of Alles and Wilkie include the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office, Johnson City Police Department, First Judicial District Drug Task Force, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, all of which provided invaluable assistance during the course of the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne Taylor represented the United States.


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Prescription drug use is a problem in Tennessee

Drug overdose deaths in Tennessee are increasing:

The number of drug overdose deaths in Tennessee increased from 422 in 2001 to 1,059 in 2010; The number of drug overdose deaths in 2010 represents an increase of 250% over the 10 year time period. Includes all drug overdose deaths where the manner of death was listed as one of the following: accidental, undetermined, suicide (intentional), or homicide.

Source: Office of Policy, Planning and Assessment, Tennessee Department of Health - Death Certificates.

The top three most prescribed controlled substances in Tennessee in 2010 are:

275.5 million pills of hydrocodone (e.g., Lortab, Lorcet, Vicodin);

116.6 million pills prescribed for alprazolam (e.g., Xanax: used to treat anxiety);

113.5 million pills prescribed for oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Roxicodone) Hydrocodone and oxycodone are both prescription opioids used to treat pain.

The number of drugs prescribed during 2010 to Tennesseans represents:
51 pills of hydrocodone for EVERY Tennessean above the age of 12;
22 pills of alprazolam for EVERY Tennessean above the age of 12;
21 pills of oxycodone for EVERY Tennessean above the age of 12.

Source: Report to the 2011 General Assembly by the Tennessee Department of Health Controlled Substance Database Advisory Committee, Board of Pharmacy.

Prescription drug abuse affects everyone:

Abuse of prescription opioids is the number one drug problem for Tennesseans receiving state-funded treatment services;

Almost 250,000 Tennesseans older than 12 reported abusing prescription opioids in 2009.

Source: Treatment Episode Data Set - Admission (TEDS-A). 1999 - 2009. SAMHSA State Estimates of Substance Use and Mental Disorders from the 2008 - 2009 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health.

Prescription drug abuse hits every profession and every socioeconomic level:

For those seeking state-funded treatment, people who were stable (married, employed and had at least a high school education) were 3.16 times more likely than less stable consumers to use prescription opioids than illicit drugs.

Source: Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services. Tennessee Web Information Technology System (TN WITS) Database.

Prescription drug abuse especially affects women:

While more men were admitted to treatment in 2009 than women, a higher percentage of women abuse prescription opioids;

21% of 6,827 men reported prescription opioids as their primary substance of abuse;

27% of 3,403 women listed prescription opioids as their primary substance of abuse;

35% of 142 pregnant women admitted to state-funded treatment services in Tennessee listed prescription opioids as their primary substance of abuse.

Source: SAMHSA State Estimates of Substance Use and Mental Disorders from the 2008 - 2009 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health.