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Sheriff says pain pills were also for sale at fruit and veggie stand




ROADSIDE DRUGS? — Letcher County sheriff's deputies and Kentucky State Police converged on a fruit and vegetable stand in West Whitesburg on Tuesday. Sheriff Danny Webb said drugs being sold at the stand were being supplied by a used car salesman working nearby. (Eagle photo)

ROADSIDE DRUGS? — Letcher County sheriff’s deputies and Kentucky State Police converged on a fruit and vegetable stand in West Whitesburg on Tuesday. Sheriff Danny Webb said drugs being sold at the stand were being supplied by a used car salesman working nearby. (Eagle photo)

Police say customers were able to buy more than apples and beans at a Whitesburg fruit and vegetable stand.

George Thomas, 66, of 291 Circle Drive in Whitesburg, was arrested at his produce stand located behind Rite Aid Pharmacy around 11:30 a.m. on December 2 after the Letcher County Sheriff’s Department investigated allegations that Thomas was selling prescription narcotics illegally.

“We started getting complaints on him two or three months ago that he was selling drugs from his roadside stand,” said Letcher County Sheriff Danny Webb.

Webb said that on two separate occasions a confidential witness working with the sheriff’s department was able to buy the painkiller hydrocodone from Thomas while he was working at the stand. Webb said the confidential witness bought 10 hydrocodone tablets the first time and 15 hydrocodone tablets the second. Hydrocodone is sold under brand names such as Lorcet, Lortab and Vicodin. Generic hydrocodone tablets are sometimes green in color referred to as “green beans.”

Suspect George Thomas, left, spoke with Sheriff Danny Webb, center, and Special Deputy Scott Taylor.

Suspect George Thomas, left, spoke with Sheriff Danny Webb, center, and Special Deputy Scott Taylor.

Thomas was charged with four counts of trafficking in a Schedule II controlled substance and two counts of trafficking within 1,000 yards of a school. West Whitesburg Elementary School and Whitesburg Middle School can be seen in the distance when standing in front of the produce stand.

Police also found skelaxton, a type of muscle relaxant, in Thomas’s possession, along with empty pill bottles with prescriptions for hydrocodone and an undisclosed amount of cash near the produce stand.

Sheriff’s Dept. Sgt. Brian Damron said Thomas told police who had been supplying him with the controlled substances he was selling.

“He gave a statement to us and with that information, warrants were served,” said Damron.

About three hours after the produce stand was raided, police visited the Pine Top Motors used car lot located in front of Thomas’s produce stand and arrested salesman Ralph Combs, 50, of 827 Highway 1148, Isom.

Prescription pill bottles and cash were placed on the hood of a pickup truck belonging to Thomas during Tuesday's bust.

Prescription pill bottles and cash were placed on the hood of a pickup truck belonging to Thomas during Tuesday’s bust.

Combs was charged with four counts of complicity to trafficking in a Schedule II controlled substance (hydrocodone) and one count of trafficking in a legend drug (skelaxton). A legend drug is a substance that is prescribed but not classified as a controlled substance.

The Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA), Kentucky State Police, Whitesburg Police Department and KSP Special Investigations Unit helped with both cases.

Damron has charge of the investigation into Combs’s case, while Sheriff Webb is in charge of the Thomas investigation. Webb said information gathered in both cases will be presented to the Letcher County Grand Jury. Webb asks that anyone with information about drugs being used or sold illegally in their community call the sheriff’s department at 633-2293.

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