Cherokee County, GA Dr. Joseph L. Burton, a former county medical examiner and forensic pathologist, has been charged along with other individuals by warrants sworn to by agents of the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad (CMANS) with RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations) charges in Cherokee County related to the illegal distribution of opioid painkillers and other drugs. Multiple individuals have also been arrested on federal and state charges related to the unlawful distribution of opioids prescribed by Burton in Barrow County, Bartow County, Cobb County, Fayette County, Floyd County, Gwinnett County, Hall County and Paulding County.
This investigation by CMANS Agents was in coordination with authorities throughout the north metro area, as well as the Georgia Drug and Narcotics Agency and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and included coordinated indictments in at least eight counties and in Federal Court.
Burton and the seven other individuals are charged in a federal indictment presented by DEA, released yesterday, with conspiring to distribute and dispense controlled substances—outside of the normal course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose—from July 2015 to February 2018. Burton is also charged with ten individual counts of illegal drug distribution for specific prescriptions. Over a roughly two-year period beginning in July 2015, Dr. Burton allegedly issued over 1,100 opioid prescriptions, which amounted to over 108,000 individuals doses, including over 66,000 30mg oxycodone pills. The indictment alleges that Burton prescribed opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone, irrespective of any legitimate medical purpose and outside the normal course of professional practice.
The following individuals are charged in Cherokee County with charges related to this organization:
• Burton, Joseph Lawson
• Hunter, Jennifer
• Willis, Tiffany
• Fossett, Nancy
• Cargile, Sandy
• Cargile, Justin
• Cargile, Roy
• Morgan, Jerry
• Saye, Harold
• Tatum, David
• Jenkins, Joyce Justene
• Danner, Michelle
• Powell, Ashley
The abuse of prescription pain-killers is the root cause of heroin abuse in Cherokee County, and CMANS Agents have worked alongside our neighbors and federal partners to address this serious problem. Agents from CMANS actively pursue cases related to opioid abuse involving fraudulent prescriptions, cases of double doctoring, or, as in this case, medical professionals who violate their oath. Burton’s arrest marks the third arrest this year in Cherokee County of persons with medical connections arrested for drug charges.
The Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad is a joint task force working in Cherokee County to investigate drug related violations. Participating agencies include the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, the Canton Police Department, the Woodstock Police Department, the Holly Springs Police Department, the Ball Ground Police Department, the Cherokee County Marshal’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office for the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit, and the Georgia State Patrol. Citizens may call in tips anonymously to (770) 345-7920, or may speak to an agent by calling (678) 493-7625.
Decatur, GA – Within the past week, the GBI Crime Lab’s drug identification unit received three cases from separate seizures of the synthetic opioid carfentanil. Carfentanil is a fentanyl analog used as a tranquilizer on large animals such as elephants.
It is purported to be 100 times stronger than fentanyl and suspected of playing a role in hundreds of overdoses in the Midwest part of the country this past month. It can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin and very toxic in small quantities. The cases that came in the lab were from the metro Atlanta area and were all suspected to be heroin. As a result of this drug coming into the GBI Crime Lab, lab scientists have enhanced their safety protocols to protect them from the potential dangers.
Some of the changes include wearing a face mask as well as testing any case suspected to contain heroin under a ventilated hood. Officer safety is of grave concern and all officers are strongly encouraged to take extreme caution when handling any suspected opioid.
Carfentanil is not intended for human use and the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan may be effective but only after multiple doses. The public is urged to be aware of the extreme dangers of handling and consuming carfentanil.