Two people -- arrested as part of something called the Pill Initiative -- appeared in court Tuesday. The initiative was designed to take a bite out of the prescription drug problem in several southern West Virginia counties. U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin worked with federal, state and local authorities to launch the Bluefield Pill Initiative in June 2011.It was designed to combat the illegal prescription drug trade. The cases have been investigated by the Southern Regional Drug & Violent Crime Task Force made up of officers from the West Virginia State Police, the Mercer, McDowell and Wyoming county sheriff's departments and the police departments of Princeton and Bluefield.
One of those learning their fate in federal court this afternoon is Robert J. Fleek Jr., of Baltimore. Fleek plead guilty to distributing Prescription pills. According to officials, Fleek admitted he sold pills to undercover officers on five different occasions between January 25 and March 16, 2012. He was sentenced to 30 months behind bars and 3 years supervised release.
Also sentenced in federal court today was 71-year-old Tyler Thorpe. His arrested was also a part of the Bluefield Pill Initiative. Thorpe was sentenced to 51 months behind bars and 3 years of supervised release, pleading guilty to charges of distributing a controlled substance.
It's been 10 months since Tyler Thorpe has been behind bars and it will be other 4-years before he gets out. But has his arrest made an impact in the pill problem within the Bluefield community?
59News reporter Lauren Hensley went to the neighborhood where Thorpe got caught selling pills to find out what the community has to say.
After months of investigating, an arrest and a guilty plea--it all ends with the final phase of federal court proceedings, sentencing. As a part of the Bluefield Pill Initiative - - an ongoing effort to stop pill abuse in southern West Virginia--72-year old Tyler Thorpe learns his fate after pleading guilty to selling pills.
Inside court judge Faber called Thorpe a "life long" dealer and gave him the maximum sentence- 51 months behind bars and 3 years supervised probation. Even though Tyler Thorpe plea guilty to selling pills at T and J Laundromat the folks within the community they would not speak with us on camera about it, but they did share their opinions and there was a wide variety ranging from there is no problem to, every time a dealer is put away another pops back up and we finally found one woman who would share her opinion.
59News Reporter Lauren Hensley asked, "do you think there is a problem with pills in this area?"
"Oh it is terrible! I mean every time you turn around, someone is dying or some young person is over dosing, it is terrible," Etta Pannell said.
Pannell believes there is a drug problem and said she won't even walk down certain streets in Bluefield because of their reputation. While she was excited to hear about the Bluefield Pill Initiative, she's uncertain it will solve the problem.
"I don't think they are getting better--- they are not getting better," Pannell said.
Thorpe will spend 4 more years behind bars, when he gets out he will be 76 years old.