ONDCP Web Site About ONDCP News and Public Affairs Policy Drug Facts Publications Related Links
Prevention Treatment Science and Technology Enforcement State and Local International Funding

Appalachia HIDTA

General Information:
  Year of Designation:  1998
  Geographic Area of Responsibility:

Adair, Bell, Breathitt, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Floyd, Harlan, Jackson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lee, Leslie, McCreary, Magoffin, Marion, Monroe, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Taylor, Warren, Wayne, and Whitley counties;


Bledsoe, Campbell, Claiborne, Clay, Cocke, Cumberland, Fentress, Franklin, Grainger, Greene, Grundy, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Jackson, Jefferson, Knox, Macon, Marion, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Rhea, Scott, Sequatchie, Sevier, Unicoi, Van Buren, and White counties;

    West Virginia:

Boone, Braxton, Cabell, Gilmer, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Mason, McDowell, Mingo, and Wayne counties.

    Contact: (606) 877-2100

Mission Statement:

The mission of the Appalachia HIDTA is to reduce measurably, and particularly as it relates to marijuana, the production and trafficking of illegal drugs in its immediate area, to reduce drug-related violent crime in the region, and to reduce the impact that HIDTA drug production and trafficking have on other areas of the United States. Although marijuana is its primary focus, the Appalachia HIDTA responds to the threat posed by the illicit traffic of other drugs as required. Central to this mission is the expansion of cooperative, multi-jurisdictional law enforcement efforts involving HIDTA funded and non-HIDTA funded resources.

Threat Abstract:

Marijuana is the number one cash crop in the three states that comprise the Appalachia HIDTA. The states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia, with less than four percent of the total U.S. population, produced 34.5 percent of the domestic marijuana supply in 2003 (measured in total eradicated plants). Regional marijuana usage rates are generally below the national average, indicating that the vast majority of marijuana cultivated in the HIDTA is destined for markets in other regions of the country, and that the Appalachia HIDTA continues to represent a major drug threat to the United States.

Much of the marijuana produced in the Appalachia HIDTA is grown on public land. Marijuana growers in the Appalachia HIDTA intrude upon the Daniel Boone and Cherokee National Forests and the Great Smoky Mountain and Big South Fork National Parks, as well as lands owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The Daniel Boone has led all National Forests in marijuana cultivation for ten of the last 11 years. Public use of these treasures has diminished because of the threat of violence from marijuana producers.

The three states constituting the Appalachia HIDTA are experiencing a dramatic escalation in the methamphetamine threat. The number of methamphetamine labs dismantled in the HIDTA increased from 45 in 1999 to 474 in 2003.

Cocaine, in both powder and crack forms, remains a significant drug of abuse in metropolitan and rural areas.

Prescription drug seizures by Appalachia HIDTA officers and agents expanded dramatically from 4,706 dosage units in 1999 to 105,757 dosage units in 2003. The trafficking and illicit usage of prescription drugs, especially OxyContin, may well be the most significant drug problem aside from marijuana within the HIDTA.

Strategy Abstract:

The Appalachia HIDTA Executive Board is comprised of sixteen local, state, and federal law enforcement leaders in the Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia HIDTA areas of responsibility. The Administration component, or Headquarters, for the Appalachia HIDTA can be found in London, KY with offices in Tennessee and West Virginia. Since the 1998 designation of the Appalachia HIDTA, participating agencies have worked together to coordinate drug suppression activities throughout the sixty- eight designated counties, six United States Attorneys Offices, seven federal, seventeen state, 43 local agencies, two National Forests, and two National Parks. By balancing efforts to attack drug trafficking at every layer, and coordinating non-enforcement efforts in targeted communities, the Appalachia HIDTA facilitates the needed cooperation between federal, state and local agencies into collaborative initiatives that target drug cultivation, distribution, and demand.

More specifically, the Appalachia HIDTA consists of fourteen law enforcement initiatives, including a prosecution component to enhance operational efforts. These initiatives target individuals and organizations involved in the supply, trafficking, production and distribution of all drugs, with an emphasis on marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and prescription drugs. Further complementing the HIDTA's operational efforts is the Appalachia HIDTA Investigative Support Center (ISC). The four remaining support initiatives for the Appalachia HIDTA include Marijuana Eradication, Demand Reduction Teams, primarily targeting youths and educating the public, an Appalachia HIDTA Training Initiative, and the Appalachia HIDTA Administration and Operations Support Initiative.

Investigative Support Center:

The Appalachia HIDTA Investigative Support Center (ISC) is the centerpiece of the HIDTA as it provides the collocation and commingling of vital federal and state law enforcement personnel, and databases to assist all regional law enforcement agencies in counterdrug investigations, eradication, and interdiction. The ISC provides event and subject deconfliction services for officer safety and enhanced intelligence production; strategic intelligence for refined targeting and officer resource allocation; and in-service analytical intelligence training. The ISC provides drug intelligence analysis; prepares threat assessments, strategic reports, and organizational studies; participates in informant/defendant debriefings and cultivates new sources of information; performs post-seizure and search warrant analysis; supports arrest operations; prepares and conducts briefings for visitors to the HIDTA; and assists in trial preparations. Additionally, the ISC initiates intelligence projects to generate leads for HIDTA investigative agencies and other law enforcement intelligence consumers nationwide.

In 2003, the ISC purchased and implemented a computerized mechanism that provides investigative and eradication personnel with 24/7 event deconfliction service. This software will be capable of case and subject deconfliction in the future, reducing duplication of effort in addition to enhancing officer safety.

In 2003, the ISC produced and disseminated three strategic HIDTA special reports, all of which were disseminated at the national level.

Additionally, in 2003 the ISC provided leads that led directly to the seizure of dozens of indoor marijuana growing operations within the three HIDTA states and nationwide.

Participating Agencies:

FEDERAL: ATF, DEA, FBI, IRS-CI, USFS, USMS and USAOs (Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky, Eastern and Middle Districts of Tennessee, and Northern and Southern Districts of West Virginia).

STATE: Kentucky Governor's Marijuana Strike Force, Kentucky State Police, Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement, Tennessee Alcohol Beverage Commission, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee District Attorneys' General Conference, West Virginia Prosecuting Attorney's Institute, and the West Virginia State Police.

OTHER: Kentucky River Community Care Regional Prevention Center, Chiefs of Police Association and Sheriff's Association in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, Kentucky National Guard, Laurel County Fiscal Court, Tennessee National Guard, West Virginia National Guard, West Virginia Prevention Resource Center, and numerous local law enforcement agencies from all three states.


The following initiatives are included as part of the FY2005 Appalachia HIDTA Strategy:

Demand Reduction Initiatives in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia – members conduct year-round demand reduction operations in order to reduce the use of marijuana and other drugs, and to alter the public perception that marijuana is a benign drug.

Eradication Initiatives in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia – members conduct multi-agency aerial and ground surveillance to identify and subsequently eliminate both outdoor and indoor, cultivated marijuana.

Appalachia HIDTA Intelligence Initiative - This Initiative drives the Appalachia HIDTA Investigative Support Center – members in the three states make up this non-collocated team who provide strategic, operational and tactical intelligence to law enforcement officers and agencies in the region. Through the Investigative Support Center, the team supports drug investigations for all assigned task forces. Appalachia HIDTA Regional Training Initiative implements training that is in accordance with the goals and strategy of the Appalachia HIDTA and insures coordination with the National HIDTA Assistance Center (NHAC) and the National HIDTA Program Office (NHPO).

Prosecution Initiatives in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia – Federal and state prosecutors in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia complement all drug-related investigations, working with the HIDTA to prosecute marijuana cultivators, drug traffickers, drug money launderers, and violent felons, and target their equipment, property, and currency assets for seizure and forfeiture.

Appalachia HIDTA Administration and Operations Support – the HIDTA Director and his staff, located in Operations Centers in the three states, carry out the policies of the Executive Board; ensure that initiatives are established and executed in an efficient manner; provide program oversight; assist in the development of new initiatives, and report to ONDCP through the Executive Board.

Investigative Task Force Initiatives-Kentucky

Bowling Green - Warren County Drug Task Force

Columbia Area Drug Task Force

DEA London Task Force

Hazard Investigative Task Force Lake Cumberland Area Drug Task Force

National Forest Marijuana Investigative Task Force

Investigative Task Force Initiatives-Tennessee

DEA Upper East Tennessee Task Force Middle Tennessee Task Force

Rocky Top Tennessee Task Force

DEA South Tennessee Task Force

Investigative Task Force Initiatives-West Virginia

Huntington Violent Crimes/Drug Task Force

Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Network Team

Southern Regional Drug and Violent Crime Task Force

U.S. Highway 119 Drug and Violent Crime Task Force

Significant Achievements:

In September 2002, the Appalachia HIDTA Rocky Top Task Force and DEA Knoxville entered into a joint OCDETF investigation “Operation Underground” with BATGF&E Knoxville, IRS Knoxville, and Knoxville PD. This investigation targeted a major cocaine trafficking organization in the Knoxville, and east Tennessee area. In July 2003, investigators focused on the communications structure of the organization, ultimately using 17 pen registers and 7 federal Title III wire intercepts. All of the Title III wire intercepts and all but one of the pen registers were funded by the Appalachia HIDTA.

Exploitation of the communications revealed that the organization's source of supply was based in Atlanta, Georgia. This organization was reportedly importing 100 kilograms of cocaine per month to the Knoxville and Atlanta areas. Investigative leads developed and passed by the Rocky Top Task force to DEA Atlanta Task Force Group IV assisted in identifying a primary source of supply in South Texas responsible for importing cocaine into the United States and distributing it to Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

In March 2004, Knoxville and DEA Atlanta investigators executed search warrants and arrested ten individuals indicted on drug trafficking and money laundering charges. Additional indictments and arrests are expected. Seizures in the Knoxville investigation totaled 15 kilograms of cocaine and $156,660 in assets. Information and leads passed by Knoxville investigators to DEA Atlanta Task Force officers assisted in the indictment and arrest of 21 subjects on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, and the seizure of 49 kilograms of cocaine, 1 kilogram of “ice” methamphetamine, and $452,000 in U.S. Currency. By working together with agencies and investigators from other jurisdictions, a Mexican drug trafficking organization responsible for distributing hundreds of kilograms of cocaine in the Southeast United States was dismantled.

In April 2003, the Appalachia HIDTA DEA London Task Force initiated an OCDETF investigation of a Laurel County marijuana distribution organization. This investigation was launched as the result of an Operation Pipeline interdiction traffic stop by the Kansas Highway Patrol that led to the seizure of 300 pounds of marijuana. The marijuana was en route from Phoenix, Arizona, to London, Kentucky. A subsequent controlled delivery led to the arrest of three subjects in Laurel County.

Further investigation revealed that the three subjects controlled a tight-knit, family-based, Southeastern Kentucky trafficking organization that had distributed approximately 13,000 pounds of marijuana since 1998. Using a system of real estate purchases, semi-legitimate businesses, and complex financial transactions, the organization had laundered between five and ten million dollars during the same time period. This ongoing investigation, conducted with the assistance of the DEA Phoenix Division Office, DEA Kansas City District Office, Kansas Highway Patrol, and the United States Attorney's Offices for the District of Arizona and the Eastern District of Kentucky, continues to identify additional financial holdings, criminal activities, and organization associates.

In addition to ten arrests, total value of assets seized since April 2003 is approximately $3.25 million, including $1.4 million in U.S. Currency and a $1 million Judgment Forfeiture. This investigation has led to the indictment and filing of a provisional arrest warrant with the Government of Mexico for the Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico-based source of supply. Through investigative and prosecutorial efforts, a major international, multi-state marijuana drug trafficking organization was successfully dismantled.

Previous Contents Next

Last Updated: February 7, 2005