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By DAMON LAWRENCE
A dirty car is what prompts most people to visit a car wash.
Federal authorities, however, contend that Ralph O’Neal had a different motive for driving to the Free Spirit Car Wash in Midtown in March.
That motive was to allegedly sell crack cocaine.
That could turn out to be a life-changing trip for O’Neal, because the person he is said to have sold to was a confidential source working with the FBI.
O’Neal, of Midtown, now faces numerous drug charges in United States District Court in Knoxville.
Members of the Roane County Sheriff’s Office, FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration arrested him earlier this summer.
“It’s a sigh of relief,” Roane County Sheriff Jack Stockton said.
Stockton said O’Neal was a major player in Roane County’s drug underworld. His arrest will put the brakes on some of the local drug activity, the sheriff added.
Four of O’Neal’s alleged cohorts are also facing federal drug charges. They include Brandon Cooper of Harriman, Randy Spears of Harriman, Demond Reed of Rockwood and Michael Currier of Clinton.
“We know that justice will be served when they go to court, and we know they’re not going to be a menace to our society for a long, long time,” Stockton said.
Stockton said the probe is ongoing.
According to the indictment, a federal grand jury charged that from 2000 to April 2008, O’Neal knowingly conspired to sell cocaine and crack cocaine. He’s charged with 10 counts.
“We’ve been after O’Neal for 10 years,” Stockton said. “He’s been dealing for a long time.”
Spears is charged with three counts in the federal indictment. Reed and Cooper are each charged with two counts, and Currier is charged with one count.
According to O’Neal’s arrest warrant, a confidential source met O’Neal at the Free Spirit Car Wash on March 24 for the purpose of buying crack cocaine. Authorities had the place staked out.
“Upon O’Neal’s arrival, the CS (confidential source) got into O’Neal’s vehicle,” the search warrant states. “The CS paid O’Neal $2,850 in U.S. Currency and was given a bag of white, firm substance.”
The substance was tested at a DEA laboratory and was determined to be crack cocaine.