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Six people arrested on federal drug charges

Six Beaufort County residents were arrested Thursday on federal charges stemming from an investigation of illegal appropriation and sales of prescription drugs, the N.C. Department of Justice confirmed.

Three sisters, Amanda Champion Bunch, a nurse practitioner; Lori Champion Melton, pharmacy manager of Tayloe’s Hospital Pharmacy; and Anna Champion Moore, a former nurse anesthetist, were arrested by agents from State Bureau of Investigation’s Diversion and Environmental Crimes unit and the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. Kevin Dail Owens, a sergeant with the N.C. State Highway Patrol; Justin Mixon, formerly employed by the Washington Police Department; and Arron Jones, a registered nurse, also were arrested.

The six face a combined total of 259 federal charges, according to an email from Noelle Talley, public-information officer with the N.C. Department of Justice. All six are charged with obtaining controlled-substance prescription drugs fraudulently. Bunch was also charged with writing prescriptions outside the scope of professional practice — prescriptions written largely to friends and family, which she had previously acknowledged to state investigators.

The N.C. Board of Nursing suspended Bunch’s nurse practitioner’s license in October 2011, citing the ongoing SBI investigation that revealed Bunch had inappropriately written prescriptions for painkillers Hydrocodone and Oxycodone, and a variety of prescription medications to treat insomnia, dating back to 2007.

A hearing before the N.C. Board of Nursing resulted in an official reprimand from the agency and the requirement that Bunch complete a board-approved ethical/legal decision-making course, which she did in February.

According to Barbara Dunn, Vidant Beaufort Hospital’s director of public and customer relations, Moore was a Beaufort Regional Health System employee from July 2001 until October 2010; Jones, from May 2005 until November 2010; and Bunch, from April 2006 until October 2008, but they were at no time employed by Vidant Health.

In October 2010, Moore submitted a letter to the N.C. Board of Nursing, voluntarily surrendering her license to practice nursing in the state.

Mixon, charged with fraudulent appropriation of painkillers, resigned from his position with Washington Police Department in November 2010. A police spokesman said Mixon had been a patrol officer with the department.

Owens has been on administrative duty with the Highway Patrol since December 2010, according to officials. Charges against Owens allege he obtained Zolpidem tartrate, known as Ambien, and Alprozolam, known as Xanax, through illegal means.

The case is related to an earlier investigation by the SBI and the sheriff’s office, the outcome of which was Heather Tetterton’s guilty plea last October to five felony charges based on possession and intent to sell hydrocodone, along with three counts of felony embezzlement of a controlled substance. Tetterton also worked at Tayloe’s Hospital Pharmacy as a pharmacist.

The six were taken into federal custody Thursday morning and taken to the federal courthouse in Greenville, where each was placed under a $25,000 unsecured bond.