The following press release has been issued by Cherokee County Sheriff's Office. All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Murphy, NC— Sheriff Derrick Palmer announced the March 2nd, 2016 arrest of 59-year-old James Lanier Heaton and 58 -year-old John Michael Gowder both of Blairsville, Georgia on true bills of indictment handed down from the February 29th, 2016 session of the Cherokee County Grand Jury.
During a joint investigation being conducted in North Georgia into individuals who were committing drug fraud, it became apparent that both Heaton and Gowder, doctors with a practice in North Georgia were operating their fraudulent drug activities in Cherokee County, North Carolina. Information from that investigation was collected and submitted to the Grand Jury who issued true bills of indictment for 5 counts of trafficking in Opium or Heroin and 5 counts of Obtaining a Controlled Substance by forgery against both Heaton and Gowder.
Both Heaton and Gowder were arrested on the charges and the North Carolina Magistrate set a each a $500,000.00 secure bond and an April 4th, 2016 Superior Court date. Gowder posted the secure bonds and Heaton remains in custody at the time of this release.
Sheriff Palmer stated, “We want to thank the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations Drug Division Unit, the Union County Sheriff’s Office, and the DEA for partnering with us on this investigation. Again, we are going after the folks who are running drugs in Cherokee County and won’t stop until we catch all we can to make Cherokee County safe for our folks.”
Sheriff Palmer encourages anyone that has information on this crime or any other to report it. To report crime in Cherokee County you can call the anonymous tip line at 828-837- 1344 or email a tip at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 911 if you observe a crime in progress.
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