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Optometrist charged with drug-trafficking, -manufacturing

If you drive about 180 miles west of Chattanooga, you can find a medical records warehouse in Wayne County. The optometrist who owns the warehouse was recently arrested on drug crimes charges by officials who claim the property was used to house a marijuana-growing operation.

The 45-year-old doctor was arrested a day before a 36-year-old woman was charged for her alleged role in the operation. Both suspects live in Alabama, while the warehouse is just across the border in Iron City, Tennessee.

A Tennessee prosecutor said the pair have been charged with the following crimes:

  • Unlawful manufacturing of a controlled substance,
  • Conspiracy to commit unlawful manufacturing of a controlled substance
  • Manufacturing a marijuana concentrate
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia

The optometrist also faces drug trafficking allegations in his home state.

Police say they seized more than 500 marijuana plants and THC-extraction equipment from the 7,500-square-foot warehouse.

The Wayne County sheriff said the extraction process involved a significant amount of propane that was stored inside the warehouse and on the property outside of the building. "Some of the plants we found were packaged as plants,” he said, adding that much of the operation appeared to involve “extracting the oils from the plants to use in vape pens.”

He said the investigation is ongoing and that it is possible that more arrests will be made.

He said the warehouse attracted attention and suspicion because both of its entrances are surrounded by 10-ft.-high barrier walls.

Anyone facing drug trafficking or manufacturing allegations should decline to speak to prosecutors and investigators until they’ve talked over evidence, charges and their legal options with a criminal defense attorney.

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