Police say business may have been a front for drugs - WSMV Channel 4

Police say business may have been a front for drugs

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LAVERGNE, TN (WSMV) -

After months of undercover drug buys LaVergne police have busted a business that may have been a front for selling dope. The business is located in a unit at an apartment building that used to be motel. Police said it has been a haven for illegal drug activity for years.

They arrived in old military vehicles, with high-powered rifles and search warrants in hand.

"I was sleeping in a little bit before work," said tenant Steven Starnes.

But Starnes didn't need an alarm this morning, he was jolted wide awake.

"The next thing I heard was that loud bang and knocking," Starnes said.

It was the LaVergne Police Special Operations Unit that was on a mission.

"And then you just heard get on the ground, and came outside and saw the parking full of everybody," Starnes said.

It didn't surprise Starnes about what or who they were here looking for. He moved to the building at the beginning of the year.

"Maybe two or three months (after moving in) I started noticing the non-stop traffic coming in," he said. "Somebody will pull up, get out, run inside, and leave the car running. They would come back out, hop into the car and are gone in five minutes."

Over the past month or so, undercover officers have been buying illegal drugs from three of the apartments and the Leather Goods and More business. Today, they found more.

"There was also some illegal drugs seized from that location including marijuana, cocaine, prescription pills and an undisclosed amount of cash," said Bob Hayes, LaVergne police detective.

Detectives believe the "More" in Leather Goods and More meant selling illegal drugs. Owners 49-year-old David Hipp and his wife Peggy, 46, were arrested.

"It's highly possible those individuals were using that business as a front or a location point to sell illegal drugs," Hayes said.

Police searched the couple's apartment as well. They also served warrants at two other apartments and arrested Ismael Angel, 23 and his wife Sondra, 21, as well as neighbor Hosea Brown, 42. Police also arrested Michelle Gunning, 33, during a traffic stop late Friday afternoon.

The building used to be the Crowder House Motel until it closed and sat vacant for years. It re-opened as an Extend Stay Motel, and since then, police said it has been a haven for drug activity.

"The message is, if you're doing illegal drugs in LaVergne, we're going to catch you," Hayes said.

Today's raid was a welcomed sight for some tenants.

"It needed to be done," Starnes said. "It was a long time coming."

All six suspects are facing a list of charges including sale and possession of drugs with intent to distribute.

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