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2 Sevier County deputy clerks charged after FBI raids Sevier County Courthouse

Records suggest the clerks' alleged crimes are linked to registering and titling vehicles with the state.

SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — UPDATE (10/8/21): The Sevier County Clerk's office said Roberta Lynne Webb Allen, one of the two deputy clerks indicted by a federal grand jury following an FBI raid at the Sevier County Courthouse Thursday, married Sevier County Commissioner Ronnie Allen in 2018. 

Federal Bureau of Investigation special agents raided the Sevier County Courthouse on Thursday. Two deputy clerks -- Webb Allen and Brandy Thornton -- are facing federal charges of obstructing interstate commerce, part of a wider investigation that looked into cocaine trafficking in Sevier County, records show.

Webb Allen appeared Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Knoxville before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton wearing handcuffs and leg shackles. She faces two counts of the federal charge "to obstruct, delay and affect commerce and the movement of articles and commodities in commerce by extortion." 

She'll be allowed to be released before federal trial, but she also faces a related misdemeanor charge in Sevier County for which she must post bond, authorities said. 

Webb Allen wept at times during her roughly 20-minute court appearance.

Guyton set her trial date for Dec. 14, although initial trial dates rarely go through. The magistrate judge noted Webb Allen has no criminal history. She started working for the county in 2013. 

Commissioner Ronnie Allen said he could not comment on the indictment and hung up. 

Thornton appeared in court Friday with her public defender and pleaded not guilty to all three counts. Sevier County's Human Resources office said Thornton started working for the county in 2002.

Records suggest the clerks' alleged crimes are linked to registering and titling vehicles with the state.

The women got cash payments and food from two men who federal authorities say were involved in a cocaine sales conspiracy in Sevier County.

The men are identified as Juan Lopez Gallardo and James C. Hickman. They're being prosecuted in a separate federal conspiracy case in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

Records indicate the women began to cooperate with the men in the title scheme as early as July 2020.

East Tennessee law officers began investigating the cocaine ring in the spring of 2020, records state.

Officials also released an announcement of several arrests of Sevier County men they said were linked to a conspiracy to distribute cocaine and transport stolen cars.

Sevier County Clerk Karen Cotter said her office was cooperating with the FBI, saying it is her understanding that "no public funds were misused."