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Accused drug dealer's case heading West
Feb 02, 2006 12:00 am
January 27, 2006
The investigation of an alleged Hartsville drug kingpin has officials traveling to yet another state — this time California — where the man known to Wilson Countians as Fred Earl Strunk has family still involved in a successful industrial business he founded in the 1970s.
However, agents investigating Strunk may have more traveling ahead of them.
A survey of public records, court testimony and lawsuit filings suggest Strunk's business interests — both past and present — stretch across the country.
District Attorney General Tommy Thompson said Thursday the investigation of Strunk has taken Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents to the West Coast where they will continue to look into the accused marijuana manufacturer's holdings.
Thompson said the State of Florida this week put a lein on Strunk's $1.3 million Homosassa Springs home, where federal and state officials seized automatic weapons, six silencers and a grenade along with multiple sets of false identification.
"They are looking for assets," Thompson said of investigators. "They are looking for anything in addition to what we've found that might have been purchased with illegal funds."
Strunk was arrested by 15th Judicial Drug Task Force members in December after they seized some 850 marijuana plants growing in caves under his Dixon Springs home in Trousdale County.
Strunk was at one time well-known to Wilson County residents. He moved to Wilson County from California some time during the 1980s and purchased the historic Belle Isle home on Cairo Bend Road.
According to public records, Strunk still has family in California involved in a successful manufacturing business he started in the 1970s.
Corporate records on file with the California Secretary of State show Linda L. Strunk, Fred Earl Strunk's daughter, is the registered agent for Lawton Industries Inc. in Rocklin, Calif. The company makes an extensive line of safety tools, including a well-known industrial shim. According to literature on the company's website, Fred Strunk founded the company some three decades ago.
Lawton Industries boasts as their clients some of the largest companies in the world including Exxon, Mobile Oil, Dow Chemicals, Kraft Foods and even the U.S. Navy. They also have distributors for their products across North and South America as well as the Far East, Middle East and Europe.
Strunk's family and his California business were discussed openly in a January court hearing by a character witness for Strunk.
Mildred G. Duff, 74, said she has known the Strunk family since Fred Strunk purchased a home across from her in the early 1990s. Duff said she met his daughter Linda, who lives in California. She also described Strunk's shim manufacturing business.
"As far as I know, his reputation is spotless," Duff said in open court. "If I was hanging off a cliff on a rope, I would want him on the other end of the rope."
Strunk's attorney Jack Lowery Jr. confirmed Strunk had at one time owned Lawton Industries but sold it. He added Linda Strunk took the business back over after the purchaser "basically ran it into the ground."
Records from the North Carolina Secretary of State and local court records also show Strunk has business interests in North Carolina.
North Carolina incorporation records show Fred and Linda Strunk as corporate officers at different times for a corporation called Thor Enterprises LTD described in records as a holding company. According to the records, Thor Enterprises shares a telephone number with Lawton Industries.
Local court records also tie Fred Strunk to another North Carolina business.
A 1999 Chancery Court lawsuit found Strunk seeking an injunction against the Lebanon/Wilson County Drug Task Force. The suit was successful in having a Catepillar bulldozer returned to Strunk by the task force. The bulldozer had been seized in the multimillion dollar marijuana bust of Wilson County resident Charles Hicks.
Strunk argued the heavy equipment was not Hicks' but belonged to him. The court records include a receipt from Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers showing Indian Cove Construction of Carolina Beach, N.C., paid $45,000 for the bulldozer.
Finally, a partnership that owns land in the development hotspot of Beckwith Road in Tennessee has its corporate roots in Nevada.
The Starstream Investment Group LLC owns a 212-acre parcel in the Beckwith Road area. The land was put under a lein by the State of Tennessee due to the partnerships ties to Fred Strunk. Records from the Nevada Secretary of State and statements from Starstream partners show the limited liability company is incorporated in Nevada.
Other than the Starstream partnership, none of the businesses tied to Fred Strunk have been implicated in the alleged marijuana grow operation. Linda Strunk has also not been accused of any crimes.
Lowery said he was not aware of any other criminal charges against Fred Strunk in other states.
"Presently, there is a charge pending against him in Trousdale County," Lowery said. "I don't know of any others."
Managing Editor Clint Brewer can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 13 or by e-mail at email@example.com.