CHRISTIANSBURG — The Blacksburg man at the center of the Operation Crankdown methamphetamine case is to serve 18 years of a century-long prison term, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Aaron Wayne Hixon, 45, entered seven guilty pleas during a short hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Wolz described him as “the primary person” in a conspiracy that brought pounds of meth from Georgia to the New River Valley between February 2017 and January 2018.
In a plea agreement, Hixon accepted convictions on a charge of distributing a Schedule II controlled substance, an amended charge of distributing more than 10 grams of meth, and five amended charges of conspiring to distribute a Schedule II substance. Another 13 charges of transporting drugs into Virginia were dropped.
Judge Robert Turk imposed a 20-year prison sentence for the first distribution conviction, 30 years for the distribution of more than 10 grams of meth, and 10 years apiece for the conspiracy charges. Turk ordered that the sentences run consecutively for a total of 100 years, to be suspended after Hixon serves 18 years. The suspended time can be reinvoked if Hixon breaks any laws during a 40-year period after his release, the judge said.
Hixon’s driver’s license also will be suspended for 42 months after his release, Turk ordered.
In a statement after the hearing, defense attorney Brad McConnell of Blacksburg called the sentence substantial for a nonviolent offense.
“However, my client was facing a mandatory sentence of life plus 54 years if convicted as charged,” McConnell wrote in a text message. “Under those circumstances, it was probably the best we could have done.”
Summarizing the prosecution’s evidence, Wolz said that Hixon had traveled to his mother’s house in Georgia, where her boyfriend connected him to a meth dealer called “Tiny.” Soon Hixon was making two to three trips per week to Georgia and bringing back two to four ounces of meth each time, Wolz said.
Most of the meth was sold from the garage at Hixon’s home in the 900 block of Hightop Road, Wolz said.
Investigators from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the Christiansburg Police Department initially looked at more than 150 people thought to be connected to the case, Wolz said. Eventually, 22 people were charged in what officials called Operation Crankdown.
So far, 13 defendants in the case have been convicted, including Hixon’s mother, Donna Jean Collins, 61, of Albany, Georgia, last week. She pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess a Schedule II substance and was given a 5-year prison term, with all of it suspended. Another charge of conspiring to distribute meth was dropped.