Police grab $70K in painkillers Busts common along Highway 280 corridor

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Harpersville police recovered $70,000 worth of prescription painkillers after a traffic stop on U.S. Highway 280 last week.

Officers found 9,000 Lorcet and Lortab pills, weighing about nine pounds in all and valued at up to $70,000, according to Harpersville police.

Sgt. Scott Baggett of the Harpersville Police Department said he and officer Barry Wathen stopped a 1991 Chevrolet van for improper lane usage on Thursday at 5:15 p.m.

The driver, Joseph Ray Eddins, 43, of Mentone, gave officers permission to search the van.

According to Baggett, he and Wathen uncovered the pills in a hidden compartment in the back of the van.

Baggett said the pills were wrapped in kilo-type bundles and were hidden under paint supplies and other tools.

Eddins, the driver, was the only person in the van, Baggett said.

He was transported to the Shelby County Jail, where the Shelby County Drug Task Force and the sheriff’s department took over the investigation. He remains in jail under a $50,000 bond.

Baggett said the drugs were headed for Birmingham, and the investigation will continue to determine where they originated.

Baggett said he believes that Eddins was unaware of the drugs in the van, which was not registered in his name.

He said Eddins was probably used to drive the van to a delivery destination.

&uot;Basically, he was just paid to pick it up and drive it,&uot; Baggett said.

The bust, although considered a large value, is not necessarily uncommon in Harpersville, a town of about 1,700 people straddling the busy U.S. 280 corridor.

Together, Baggett and Wathen comprise the Harpersville Highway Interdiction Team (HIT), which concentrates on drug intercepts along Highway 280.

This year, Harpersville police have made more than 50 drug arrests on U.S. 280 alone.

Baggett said U.S. 280 is a secondary road popular among drug traffickers relaying narcotics between Georgia, Florida and Alabama, as well as within the state.

Generally, Baggett said drugs intercepted on U.S. 280 in Harpersville are redistributed drugs en route to other destinations.

&uot;We’re (U.S. 280) a major thoroughfare between Birmingham, Auburn and other places like Georgia,&uot; Baggett said. &uot;They start taking secondary roads.&uot;

According to Baggett, Harpersville police make frequent arrests for marijuana possession and other drug offenses.

On Saturday night, in fact, Baggett arrested another suspect with an &uot;eightball&uot; of cocaine.