A roundup of street-level users and sellers of prescription pain medications that began at 6:30 a.m. today resulted in the arrest of 16 suspects, with nine persons still being sought, Greene County Sheriff Steve Burns said.
He said 16 were charged this morning by the 3rd Judicial District Drug Task Force with 40 to 50 different counts of possession and sale of prescription drugs.
Burns said 12 of the suspects were arrested at residences, while four were already in custody at the Greene County Detention Center.
"All of these cases are street-level cases," Burns said, adding that "street-level cases" typically involve possession of 10 to 20 pills for resale "on the street."
The sheriff said many different drugs were involved, but strong pain medications such as Roxycontin and Lortabs were among the pills that had been confiscated this morning.
At about 8:30 a.m. today, he said, the Sheriff's Department, the Greeneville Police Department and the Joint SWAT Team were "still out making the roundup arrests."
"The majority (of the arrests) we were concentrating on today were for sale and delivery of prescription drugs, that have been causing such a problem recently," the sheriff said.
"We have other charges pending that will be filed in the future," Burns said. "This investigation is still ongoing, to send a message to those out there passing these prescription drugs illegally, that we're not going to tolerate it."
The sheriff said many citizens are aware that it is possible to travel to "pain clinics" in Florida and other states and obtain prescriptions for relatively large quantities of prescription pain medications, and then buy them legally.
Obtaining strong pain medications in this way is currently "not a violation of the law. That's what we're up against," he said.
Sheriff Burns and other Tennessee sheriffs have lobbied the legislature to try to put pressure on Florida and other states to more tightly regulate pain clinics.
Burns said that this morning's arrests should send a message that, when someone who purchases pills such as Roxycontin in that way, and then sells a pill or several pills to someone else, "They're in violation of the law," and will be prosecuted.