published Friday, March 1st, 2013

Bledsoe County, Tenn., ambulance director probe in 2nd week

State and local investigators in Bledsoe County, Tenn., are in their second week of interviews in a probe launched by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of "mishandled" pharmaceutical supplies for the county's ambulances.

The investigation so far has targeted county Emergency Medical Services Director Larry Billingsley. He resigned last week, citing health reasons, after working for the department for more than 22 years.

Billingsley has not been charged with anything, authorities said.

Bledsoe County sheriff's investigator Ricky Seals said Wednesday that Billingsley has not been interviewed and has not approached investigators to provide information on his own. Billingsley has not declined to speak with officials either, he said.

Billingsley has not returned calls seeking comment.

The probe started Feb. 15 after DEA agents working with Erlanger Health System officials in Chattanooga contacted the sheriff's office about suspected "mishandling" of medical supplies for county ambulances.

"Mr. Billingsley's name was mentioned as the person who would have been involved," officials said then.

Officials have not described exactly how supplies were mishandled.

District Attorney Mike Taylor said the investigation is focused on individual interviews and ambulance department records.

Taylor told TBI agents on the case that he would call for help from the state comptroller's office if they thought it was warranted.

Seals said the team of officials in Bledsoe met with County Mayor Bobby Collier to start determining what's missing.

Collier said Wednesday that he had reported the investigation to the state comptroller's office and filled out a "fraud form" as required by the state.

"I'm just waiting on them to respond to my report," Collier said.

Collier said local officials don't yet know the financial impact the discrepancies will have on the county.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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