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Middlesboro business man sentenced to prison

A Middlesboro man initially arrested for drug trafficking out of his business on 20th Street pleaded to those charges and more.

On Thursday, Commonwealth Attorney Karen Greene Blondell’s office stated to local media that Hembree pleaded guilty to two cases against him in Bell Circuit Court. The plea agreements carry seven- and five-year terms to be served consecutively in prison.

He will be formally sentenced on Jan. 6 and is currently out on bond.

On Nov. 30, 2018, after a two-month long investigation prompted by anonymous community tips, the Middlesboro Police Department arrested 75-year-old Ely “Cowboy” Hembree at his business. Hembree’s former space “Cowboys Thrift Store” turned out to be a hub for prescription drug trafficking.

During the arrest police, led by Det. Joe Holder, found multiple prescription pills that included Alprazolam, Gabapentin, and Hydrocodone along with $3,745 in cash they determined to be proceeds from the illegal sale of drugs.

At the time, Hembree was charged with first-degree trafficking a controlled substance and two counts third-degree trafficking a controlled substance.

Hembree was lodged in the Bell County Detention Center and later released on a $1,500 bond.

Hembree was arrested again and served warrants on July 24 following another investigation. He was charged with five counts first-degree trafficking a controlled substance and second-degree trafficking a controlled substance.

Hembree was lodged in the Bell County Detention Center and later released on a total cash bond of $5,000.