8 more indicted on federal charge of conspiracy to sell cocaine, pills

emoody@beaufortgazette.comOctober 22, 2013 

Eight more people have been accused of participating in a ring that distributed cocaine and prescription pills in Beaufort County, bringing to 32 the number of people who face federal charges or have already pleaded guilty.

Seven Beaufort County residents and one Jasper County resident were added to an indictment describing a scheme to trade cocaine for Oxycodone and other drugs.

The eight new people are:

  • Tiffany Shelton

  • Gregory Shelton

  • Philip Mark Evers

  • Devon Paul Faltus

  • Merryn Marie Mascaro

  • Ryan Hester

  • Brian Baumgardner

  • Vincent Dixon

The suspects' ages were not included in the indictment.

John Coulter, who was indicted in January, faces additional charges of possession with intent to distribute and distribution of oxycodone, which allegedly occurred Feb. 2 and 17, 2012.

The accused people "knowingly and intentionally did combine, conspire and agree to ... unlawfully possess with intent to sell and distribute" oxycodone and cocaine, starting in about January 2004, according to the indictment.

Five people have pleaded guilty to charges related to the investigation, including Beaufort physician Vincent Rhodes, who in February admitted to a federal judge that he wrote painkiller prescriptions for people who did not need them in exchange for cocaine.

He faces nine or more years in prison but won't likely be sentenced until the cases against others involved are settled, U.S. Attorney Peter Phillips has said.

Rhodes agreed to cooperate with the investigation, but it's not clear if information he provided led to the new indictments. Attempts Monday and Tuesday to reach Phillips for comment were unsuccessful.

U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Beth Drake said she could not comment on the investigation or say if there will be other indictments.

Others who have pleaded guilty include Jason Heape Harriott on Jan. 24, Leon Edward Hudson Jr. and Henry Wallace on Aug. 13, and Jeremy Heape Harriott on Sept. 23.

Also facing charges are Sam Elliot Langford, David Heape Harriott, Steven Leonard Parker, Katherine Marie Swiatocha, M.C. Williams, Donta Mikel "Boss" Williams, Anthony Jarvis "A.J." King, Carson Reed Lewin, Kimberly Filbert, Franklin Babecki, Desiree Constantineau, Dustin Slowik, Randall Smith, Hunter Coates, James Gray, Austin Mock, John Corson and Brian Green.

Phillips said in January that the DEA and local law enforcement acted on a tip from pharmacies and began investigating an influx of oxycodone in the Beaufort area. Beaufort County Sheriff's Office and the city of Beaufort Police Department are assisting with the investigation.

Rhodes started by writing prescriptions to a few people without a medical reason, Phillips said in January. The scheme expanded until he was writing prescriptions for people brought in by his co-conspirators, "knowing the pills would not go to the patients."

The S.C. Board of Medical Examiners indefinitely suspended Rhodes' medical license May 7. His license remained suspended as of Tuesday. It had been set to expire June 30, but has been extended until June 30, 2015.

The Sheriff's Office Drug Investigations Section assisted agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the U.S. Marshal's Office with serving indictments on Evers on Thursday and Faltus and Mascaro on Friday, according to reports. They were taken to the Beaufort Police Department.

Both local agencies directed questions to the DEA and U.S. Attorney General's Office in Charleston.

"The Beaufort Police Department Investigation Division provided assistance over the course of the investigation with gathering evidence and intelligence, which led to the federal indictments," spokeswoman Hope Able said in a statement.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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