2 sentenced in southwest Virginia drug trafficking bust

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Two people involved in a drug distribution organization received sentencing on drug conspiracy charges in federal court this week.

U.S. attorney Thomas Cullen and Virginia Attorney Gen. Mark R. Herring announced the sentencing in a press release on Thursday, adding that the pair aided in trafficking drugs like methamphetamine, heroin, oxycodone and cocaine from Georgia into southwest Virginia.  

In a hearing last week in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, Audrea Augusta Woodward, 50, Big Stone Gap, received a sentence of 48 months in federal prison.  Woodward previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute and distributing oxycodone. 

On Tuesday, Paul Thomas Jones, 26, of Pennington Gap, was sentenced to serve 18 months in federal prison.  Jones previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute and distributing oxycodone. 

In all, 11 individuals have been charged as part of this drug trafficking conspiracy. Two defendants were sentenced earlier this year for their roles in the conspiracy, with three others scheduled for sentencing in the coming months. The two lead defendants are scheduled for trial in September 2019.   

“Oxycodone is a highly addictive and dangerous drug,” Cullen said.  “The statistics are staggering.  More people die each year from overdose deaths than from other causes, including vehicle crashes.  My office will continue to aggressively prosecute those who traffic oxycodone while also working with the Courts and community stakeholders through education, outreach and specialty Court dockets to address the opioid epidemic in our communities.”  

“Oxycodone remains a highly abused drug throughout the Commonwealth and, in particular, Southwest Virginia,” Herring added. “We work diligently with our law enforcement partners to crack down on those who distribute prescription drugs in the Commonwealth. We appreciate the hard work and dedication of our law enforcement partners in connection with this investigation and will continue to aggressively prosecute those who endanger the lives of our citizens.” 

According to court records and evidence presented at hearings in these matters by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney and Virginia Assistant Attorney General Suzanne Kerney-Quillen, these defendants conspired to traffic oxycodone from sources in Watkinsville, Athens, and Augusta, Georgia, into southwest Virginia for redistribution. 

The organization operated primarily in Lee and Wise counties from November 2016 through March 1, 2018.  Arrests on March 1, 2018, resulted in the seizure of approximately 197 grams of crystal ice methamphetamine in addition to heroin, cocaine, morphine and oxycodone.  Woodward agreed that she was responsible for conspiring to distribute, possessing with the intent to distribute and distributing 1,200 dose units of oxycodone during the conspiracy. Jones accepted responsibility for nearly 381 dose units of oxycodone tablets, which he obtained and distributed during the course of this conspiracy.    

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Southwest Virginia Drug Task Force, Virginia State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.  Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Scott County Sheriff’s Office, Wise County Sheriff’s Office, Norton Police Department, Big Stone Gap Police Department and the U.S. Marshals also assisted with the execution of search warrants and arrests connected with this case.  Special Assistant United States Attorney M. Suzanne Kerney-Quillen, a Virginia Assistant Attorney General assigned to the Attorney General’s Major Crimes and Emerging Threats Section, prosecuted the case for the United States. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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