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Whitley County, KY
There's already been a lot of speculation that the former Whitley County sheriff had something to do with missing guns from the department. After a lengthy investigation, it appears federal authorities have proof that is the case.
Former Whitley County sheriff Lawrence Hodge already faced a judge back in November. At that time, he was charged with abusing public trust by taking money used during undercover drug operations at the sheriff's department.
Based on these federal documents LEX 18 obtained Wednesday, Hodge could be facing many more charges. According to the documents, as far back as December 2009 the ATF started monitoring Nikita Evans, Charles Fritts, Jr., Jason Kersey, James Meradith, Doyle Fritts and Jerry Fritz through a confidential informant. All of them are now facing federal drug charges.
According to the documents, "James Meradith explained that his 'money man' dealt mostly with Hodge." Meradith told agents the former sheriff would send him into Tennessee to get oxycodone starting in December 2009 - when he was still employed as sheriff.
While on a sting last month, the federal informant "observed Hodge engage in...a drug transaction." The former sheriff told the informant he had oxycodone to sell. "Hodge then left a bottle of pills with Charles Fritts and Charles Fritts said 'give me a couple hours and I'll get rid of them.'"
The documents show drugs weren't the only illegal activity the sheriff may have been involved with. The informant learned that "Charles Fritts helped Hodge get rid of all the firearms that were missing from the Whitley County Sheriff's Department." The firearms were reported stolen during a burglary from the sheriff's office in December 2009.
Meradith told agents before Hodge left the sheriff's office on January 1 that he traded two of the black shotguns for oxycodone. Meradith says he still has one of those guns because no one will take it since they know where it came from.
At one point, Kersey even told the federal informant he found it ironic that the sheriff was at a known drug house, according to documents.
So far, police have arrested all but one of the people who were allegedly working with the sheriff, who is currently not facing any new charges.
Federal agents say Jerry Fritts is still on the run after Doyle Fritts turned himself in to the ATV on Wednesday morning. He could be headed to the northern Kentucky area.
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