Former Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long faces at least 10 years in prison and possibly life if he is convicted after a federal grand jury on Tuesday returned a 28-count indictment on charges of extortion, money laundering, drug trafficking and weapons charges.
Mr. Long is scheduled to be arraigned March 5 before U.S. Magistrate Judge William Carter.
According to information provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Knoxville, Mr. Long faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in a federal prison and a maximum sentence of life if he is convicted of possessing with the intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine.
He also faces up to a $4 million fine for the cocaine charge.
Mr. Long’s charge of possession of a gun in furtherance of drug trafficking carries a mandatory minimum 5 years in prison and must be served consecutively to the drug trafficking charge.
The extortion and money laundering charges each carry up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
If Mr. Long is convicted of providing a gun to a convicted felon, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, Justice Department officials said.
Assistant District Attorney Gary Humble could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Defense attorney Jerry Summers said he had not seen the indictment and was not aware an indictment had been returned.
Mr. Long is accused of accepting 12 payments totaling $17,400 from undercover agents posing as representatives of convenience store owners from whom the former sheriff extorted money in lieu of an unfulfilled campaign contribution.
The undercover agents told Mr. Long the payments were from ethnic Indians in order to protect their video poker business, according to a U.S. Justice Department news release.
Federal agents then introduced Mr. Long to what he believed was a drug trafficking and money laundering operation, in which the then-sheriff accepted six cash payments totaling $26,550 in exchange for laundering $525,000 in drug proceeds and distributing 10 kilograms of cocaine with the help of a cooperating witness, the release states.
Mr. Summers has identified the cooperating witness as Rev. Eugene Overstreet, a convicted felon.
Court records indicate Mr. Long provided the cooperating witness with a patrolman’s badge and a revolver.
Mr. Long was arrested Feb. 2 and is being held without bond.
He resigned Feb. 6, and county officials are searching for an interim replacement.