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A Middlesboro man arrested for drug trafficking out of his business is going to prison

Updated: Nov 15, 2019

From WRIL -

Ely "Cowboy" Hembree - BCDC

A Middlesboro man initially arrested for drug trafficking out of his business on 20th street has plead to those charges and more.


On Friday November 30, 2018, after a two month long investigation prompted by anonymous community tips, Middlesboro Police arrested 75 year old Ely “Cowboy” Hembree at his business. Hembree’s former space “Cowboys Thrift Store” turned out to be a hub for prescription drug trafficking.


During the arrest, police lead by Detective Joe Holder found multiple prescription pills - including Alprazolam, Gabapentin, and Hydrocodone – along with $3,745 in cash they determined to be proceeds from the illegal sales of the drugs.


At the time Hembree was charged with trafficking a controlled substance – 1st degree, 1st offense, and two counts of trafficking a controlled substance – 3rd degree. He was lodged in the Bell County Detention Center and later released on a $1,500 bond.


Hembree was once again arrested and served warrants on July 24, 2019 after another investigation, charging him with five counts of trafficking a controlled substance – 1st degree, 1st offense – drug unspecified, and 1 count of trafficking a controlled substance – 2nd degree, 2nd offense – drug unspecified. Again lodged in the detention center, Hembree was released on a total cash bond of $5,000.


Thursday November 14th, almost a year from his first arrest on the charges, Commonwealth Attorney Karen Greene Blondell’s office tells WRIL that Hembree plead guilty to the two cases against him in Bell Circuit Court. The plea agreement(s) carry seven and five year terms to be served consecutively in prison.


He will be formally sentenced on January 6, 2020 and is currently out on bond.

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