For Immediate Release
Federal Grand Jury Indicts 11 in Heroin Distribution Conspiracy
GREENEVILLE, Tenn. – On August 4, 2020 a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Tennessee returned a 12-count indictment against the following individuals for their roles in the distribution of heroin:
Jonathan Bryant Taylor, also known as “Marquis”, 45, of Charlotte, North Carolina;
Kendall Pitts, also known as “Face”, 44, of Raleigh, North Carolina;
Rodney Jenkins, also known as “Unk”, 54, of Brooklyn, New York;
Ricky Allen Overbay, 59, of Kingsport, Tennessee;
Angela Beth Bernard, 37, of Kingsport, Tennessee;
Tessa Rae Hines, 39, of Kingsport, Tennessee;
Cierra Brionna Long, 25, of Kingsport, Tennessee;
Bethany Kay Childress, 51, of Kingsport, Tennessee;
Alexander Shamell Powell, also known as “Big Mike”, 43, of Kingsport, Tennessee;
Clarence L. Benjamin, also known as “Streets”, 43, of Johnson City, Tennessee;
Kirk Estes, 61, of Kingsport, Tennessee.
The case was unsealed on January 4, 2021 after the final defendant was apprehended. The case has not yet been set for trial. The case will be heard by the Honorable Clifton L. Corker, U.S. District Court Judge.
The indictment, on file with the U.S. District Court, alleges that each of these individuals was involved in a conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin in the Eastern District of Tennessee and elsewhere. The indictment also alleges other charges related to the distribution and possession with the intent to distribute heroin. Additionally, Long is charged with distributing a quantity fentanyl; Benjamin is charged with possessing with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine; and Taylor and Benjamin were also each charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
If convicted of the heroin conspiracy charge, each faces a minimum mandatory term of imprisonment of at least 10 years and up to life, at least five years of supervised release, a fine of up to $10,000,000, any applicable forfeiture, and a $100 special assessment. The punishment for the firearm charges returned against Taylor and Benjamin is a minimum mandatory term of at least five years and up to life in prison, which must be served consecutively to any other prison term imposed, up to five years supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000, and a $100 special assessment.
Law enforcement partners have established task forces aimed at combating an increase of heroin overdoses in and around Kingsport, Tennessee. This operation targeted a network of individuals believed to be responsible for bringing heroin into the area from out-of-state sources of supply, and then distributing it in the Tri-Cities area. The on-going investigation is the product of a partnership between Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department, Kingsport Police Department, Second Judicial Drug Task Force, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee National Guard Counter-Drug Task Force, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office, Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Task Force (AHIDTA), United States Marshal Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert Reeves and J. Christian Lampe 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.
The effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.