GREENEVILLE, Tenn. – Richard McNeal Hillman, 54, of Kingsport, Tenn., was sentenced on August 13, 2015, by the Honorable R. Leon Jordan, U.S. District Court Judge, to serve 188 months in federal prison for his leadership role in an extensive a-PVP (alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone) distribution conspiracy centered in northeast Tennessee, southwest Virginia and western North Carolina and for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
A-PVP is a synthetic drug, primarily ordered from China, which is commonly referred to on the street as "gravel" of "flakka." Common effects on users include: extreme paranoia; hallucinations; elevated blood pressure; extremely high body temperature; excited delirium; staying awake for days; hostility and having exceptional strength without apparent fatigue. These characteristics of the drug make it very dangerous not only for the users, who have described it as "meth on steroids," but also for law enforcement responding to individuals who are high on the substance.
According to the plea agreement on file with U.S. District Court, Hillman admitted to conspiring to distribute and being accountable for a conservative estimate of 30,000 grams (30 kilograms) of a-PVP between September 2012 and August 2014. He admitted that he was obtaining approximately one kilogram of a-PVP per week for resale from his source of supply in Hendersonville, N.C., Scott Braddock, 49, from July 2013 through March 2014. Braddock has also been convicted of a-PVP conspiracy and international money laundering charges and currently has a sentencing hearing scheduled for November 9, 2015.
Hillman stated he had been selling drugs his whole life and had been able to stay mostly under the radar of the police until now. He also admitted that he had multiple people selling a-PVP for him, including approximately 25 in Virginia alone. He proclaimed that he aspired to be the biggest gravel dealer and control the gravel trade in Southwest Virginia. In explaining how he ran his drug trafficking organization, Hillman stated, "you have to be smart, you don’t want to get the area saturated with it. You have to control the output, or the price will drop and you won’t make money. If you flood the market, you’ll step on your own foot." Hillman estimated making over a quarter of a million dollars selling gravel, which was his only source of income during the conspiracy. Additionally, he also admitted to often carrying a firearm and accepting guns in trade for gravel.
Others who have been previously convicted and sentenced in this a-PVP trafficking conspiracy include Austin Michael Stallard, Johnny Michael Stallard, Desera Jade Allen, Phillip Wayne Mullins, Johnny White, Michael Ray Mangum and Evelyn Vickers, who were sentenced to 121 months, 180 months, 151 months, 151 months, 120 months, 120 months and 110 months in federal prison respectively.
U.S. Attorney William C. Killian stated, "We are pleased with this significant sentence on Richard Hillman, who served as one of the primary dealers of a-PVP in this region of the country. This drug began to appear in Eastern District of Tennessee as early as 2012 and we have been combating this problem ever since. It is simply one of the most dangerous and addictive drugs available anywhere. I am proud of the hard work expended by everyone involved in the investigation and prosecution of this case and this sentence will serve as an effective deterrent for others who are considering making money by selling a-PVP."
Michael J. Stanfill, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Tennessee said, "All participating agencies played a crucial role in the eradication of this criminal network. Mr. Hillman’s a-PVP trafficking activities posed a significant threat to the quality of life in northeast Tennessee, southwest Virginia and western North Carolina. The dismantling of this organization makes these communities safer today. I want to thank our federal, state and local law enforcement counterparts, who had a direct impact in making this investigation a success."
Jack Webb, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, said, "This conviction illustrates ATF’s commitment to reduce violent crime by those who prey on our communities."
Law enforcement agencies participating in the investigation which led to the indictment and subsequent conviction of Richard McNeal Hillman and his co-defendants include the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Homeland Security Investigations, Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, Kingsport Police Department, Hawkins County Sheriff’s Department, Johnson City Police Department, Greeneville, Tennessee Police Department, Hendersonville, North Carolina Police Department, and the Scott County, Virginia Sheriff’s Office, all of which provided invaluable assistance during the course of the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne Taylor represented the United States.