Shutdown: DOJ workers in public safety, national security will remain on job; others could be furloughed

The partial government shutdown that started at midnight affects nine federal departments and several agencies. They include the U.S. Department of Justice, which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and U.S. attorney’s offices. During the partial shutdown, some employees who are considered excepted for reasons that include national security and public safety might continue working, but without being paid until the shutdown is over, while others will be furloughed. Oak Ridge Today has previously reported that FBI agents will continue working, but they will work without pay, at least for now. The U.S. Department of Energy, which has major operations in Oak Ridge, is not affected by the shutdown, while the National Park Service, which also has operations here, is. The Park Service is part of the U.S. Department of Interior, which is one of the departments that has had a lapse in funding due to a lack of agreement between Congress and President Donald Trump over whether to include $5 billion for a wall along the Mexican border in spending legislation. [Read more…]

TBI not investigating Akagi, POST ends its inquiry, DAs say no violation

James T. Akagi

James T. Akagi

Note: This story was last updated at 8:53 a.m. July 2.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is not investigating, two district attorneys said there was no violation, and the state agency that certifies police officers has completed its activities, officials said Wednesday.

That would appear to end the inquiry of Oak Ridge Police Chief Jim Akagi by the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, or POST. In April, POST asked three authorities, including one federal official and two state officials, whether Akagi had violated state and federal laws by possessing a firearm after being issued an ex parte order of protection during divorce proceedings in Blount County three years ago.

The response from all three officials has been “no,” according to letters sent to POST.

Oak Ridge Today reported on the response from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as reported by Akagi’s attorney Tasha Blakney, on Tuesday. The two state officials—Dave Clark, district attorney general in the Seventh Judicial District in Clinton, and Mike Flynn, district attorney general in the Fifth Judicial District in Maryville—sent their response to POST on Wednesday.

“The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and our offices have concluded that based on what you submitted, there never has been an order of protection issued against Chief Akagi and thus no violation of an order of protection could have occurred,” Clark and Flynn said in a letter to Ray Farris, assistant director of the POST Commission. “Any criminal investigation in this case is closed.” [Read more…]

POST asks DAs, feds to investigate whether Akagi violated state, federal law

Tasha Blakney

Tasha Blakney

Chief’s attorney calls it one more effort to vilify Akagi

The organization that certifies police officers in Tennessee has asked state and federal authorities to investigate whether Oak Ridge Police Chief James T. Akagi violated state and federal laws by possessing a firearm after being issued an ex parte order of protection during divorce proceedings in Blount County three years ago.

The April 27 letter from Ray Farris, assistant director of the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission, was sent to Mike Flynn, district attorney general in the Fifth Judicial District in Maryville; Dave Clark, district attorney general in the Seventh Judicial District in Clinton; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee in Knoxville.

“Documents provided to our office indicate that an order of protection was issued by the Blount County Court against Chief Akagi on April 19, 2012,” Farris said in the letter. “During the effective period of this order of protection, Chief Akagi submitted his firearms qualifications scores to the Commission, which appears to be a violation of the aforementioned order of protection.”

But Tasha Blakney, an attorney for the police chief, has said Akagi was not prohibited from carrying a firearm.

“I am absolutely confident that there has been no violation of state or federal law in this family law matter with regard to the ex parte order of protection that was temporarily entered and subsequently dismissed,” Blakney said Thursday. “They simply don’t carry any implications for an individual’s Second Amendment rights. That’s just a function of understanding the way that Tennessee law works.” [Read more…]

Roane sheriff plays role in indictment, conviction of Chattanooga pain clinic owner

Jack Stockton

Jack Stockton

The Roane County Sheriff’s Department was one of several law enforcement agencies that took part in an investigation that led to the indictment and conviction of the owner of two pain clinics, or “pill mills,” in Chattanooga, authorities said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation were also involved in the investigation that led to the convictions of four people, including Barbara Lang, a.k.a. “Aunt Bea,” 60, of Rossville, Georgia, who owned and operated Superior One Pain Clinic and Primary Care Pain Clinic in Chattanooga, federal officials said.

Lang was convicted of drug trafficking and financial crimes. [Read more…]

Officials decline comment on federal agent, police presence at Oak Ridge business

Federal Agents at Berthold Technologies

Federal agents and police declined to comment on why they were at Berthold Technologies on Midway Road in Oak Ridge on Thursday morning.


Federal officials would not comment and company executives were not immediately available to comment Thursday morning on why there appeared to be roughly a dozen agents and police at the Berthold Technologies building on Midway Road in south Oak Ridge.

It wasn’t clear exactly which agencies were at the business. Some wore black jackets with lettering on the back that said Federal Agent and at least had one with lettering that said Police. The agents were seen entering and leaving Berthold Technologies through a few doors in the single-story building, and also going in and out of a large warehouse or garage area at the rear of the building.

It wasn’t clear if any employees were at the building. Oak Ridge Today was not able to reach anyone by phone at Berthold Technologies or to immediately reach the general manager listed on the company’s website by email. [Read more…]

Forty-two arrests in meth-making conspiracy in Anderson, Campbell

Forty-two people have been arrested in a conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine using pseudoephedrine in Anderson and Campbell counties, and another 17 have been indicted, authorities said.

The arrests and indictments of the 59 people on July 16 followed an investigation by more than a dozen agencies. The investigation found that those involved were buying pseudoephedrine at local pharmacies and using it to manufacture methamphetamine at various places in the two counties, U.S. Attorney William C. Killian said in a Thursday press release.

Those indicted include: [Read more…]

One Anderson man gets life, second 30 years in meth conspiracy

Jeffery Scott Braden

Jeffery Scott Braden

Two Anderson County men convicted of conspiring to manufacture 50 grams or more of methamphetamine were sentenced to lengthy prison terms this week, federal officials said Friday.

Officials estimate that the conspiracy resulted in the production of about 1,500 grams of methamphetamine.

Jeffrey Scott Braden, 37, of Vowell Mountain—the only one of 42 people indicted in the conspiracy to go to trial—received a mandatory life sentence on Thursday in a hearing before Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan in Knoxville, officials said.

Then, on Friday, Varlan sentenced conspiracy leader Lawrence “Stoney” Scriver, 46, of Lake City, to serve 30 years, U.S. Attorney William C. Killian said in a press release. [Read more…]

Sheriff White seeks re-election

Paul White

Paul White

Sheriff Paul White is seeking re-election as Anderson County sheriff. White was first elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2010.

White is a veteran law officer with 38 years of experience, a press release said. His first five years were with the Oliver Springs Police Department, where he served as a police officer and patrol sergeant. The remaining 33 years have been with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, where he advanced through the ranks from patrol deputy to commanding the Patrol Division and Court Services.

During his career, White had the opportunity to hold almost every position within the Sheriff’s Department and at one time was appointed “acting sheriff,” the release said.

“Having served under the last five administrations, Paul White had the unique opportunity to observe and utilize many ideas and practices as to how the Sheriff’s Department could best serve the needs of Anderson County,” the release said. [Read more…]

Two orthopedic clinics to pay $1.85 million over Medicare billing allegations

Two orthopedic clinics in East Tennessee have agreed to pay a combined $1.85 million to resolve state and federal False Claims Act allegations that they knowingly billed state and federal health care programs for reimported osteoarthritis medications, known as viscosupplements, federal authorities said.

Tennessee Orthopaedic Clinics, P.C., with headquarters in Knoxville and nine locations in East Tennessee, will pay $1.3 million and Appalachian Orthopaedic Clinics, P.C., with headquarters in Kingsport and three locations in the Tri-Cities area, will pay $550,000, according to a press release from  the U.S. Attorney William C. Killian said in a press release. Killian is U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Tennessee.

The press release said viscosupplements, such as Synvisc and Orthovisc, are injections approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of osteoarthritis pain in the knee. Viscosupplements are reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health care programs at a set rate based on the average sales price of the domestic product. [Read more…]

Federal agents investigate DOE subcontractor based in Oliver Springs

Federal Agents at TOPS in Oliver Springs

On Thursday, federal agents investigate the Oliver Springs offices of TOPS, a U.S. Department of Energy subcontractor.

Note: This story was updated at 9:45 a.m. Jan. 17.

OLIVER SPRINGS—A federal subcontractor that works at U.S. Department of Energy sites in Oak Ridge is under investigation by several federal agencies, including the FBI, IRS, and DOE Office of Inspector General.

Federal agents were at the Oliver Springs headquarters of the contractor, TOPS, on Thursday, but officials would not comment on the investigation. The office is on Winter Gap Road, next to Highway 62 just north of downtown Oliver Springs.

Dennis Holenstein at the IRS’ Nashville Field Office confirmed that agents from IRS Criminal Investigations were assisting with the investigation, but he referred a reporter to the DOE Office of Inspector General. The IG, in turn, referred calls to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Tennessee. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said its policy is to neither comment on, nor confirm or deny, the existence or status of a pending investigation.

[Read more…]

Feds, local law enforcement dismantle $17.5 million cocaine trafficking ring

Federal officials on Thursday announced they had dismantled a Knoxville-based cocaine ring that is accused of trafficking $17.5 million worth of drugs and distributing more than five kilograms of cocaine and 280 grams of crack cocaine.

A federal grand jury returned a 58-count indictment on Dec. 3 against 21 Knoxville residents, charging them with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine base, money laundering, and gun charges, U.S. Attorney William C. Killian said in a press release.

The 21 members of the alleged drug ring appeared in court before U.S. magistrate judges this week and entered pleas of not guilty to the charges in the indictment, Killian said. All of them have been ordered held without bond pending trial, which has been set for Feb. 11 in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

Among the law enforcement agencies participating in the investigation were the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, Clinton Police Department, Oak Ridge Police Department, and Roane County Sheriff’s Department, Killian said. [Read more…]