Former high school football coach busted selling fentanyl 

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Sean Hinton was booked into jail and charged with possession of a narcotic drug for sale after allegedly selling 185 counterfeit Oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl to an undercover DPS agent.

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – Former Thatcher head football coach Sean Hinton has been charged with possession of a narcotic drug for sale after he allegedly sold 185 counterfeit Oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl to an undercover agent.

Hinton has been charged with two counts of possession of a narcotic drug for sale, possession of a narcotic drug, and possession of drug paraphernalia. He has also been given additional charges of possession of a narcotic drug and drug paraphernalia in a separate case involving him accidentally dropping 16.5 counterfeit Oxycodone pills at Home Depot earlier this month. He was given a $100,000 bond on the sale case and a $25,000 bond on his possession case during his initial appearance in Safford Justice Court on Tuesday.  

Hinton was Thatcher’s head football coach from 2015-2018, winning back-to-back 2A state championships in 2016 and 2017. In July 2018 he was removed as Thatcher’s head football coach. More recently, he served as a volunteer assistant coach on Safford High School’s JV football team in 2022. According to Safford High School Principal Tad Jacobson, Hinton no longer holds that position.

Hinton was already on probation from a plea deal he took in 2020 that closed out three separate cases against him. DUI-drug charges stemmed from an incident the evening of May 20, 2019, in which he was stopped at about 11:36 p.m. for driving without his vehicle’s headlights illuminated.

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Sean Hinton hoists the 2017 2A State Championship trophy. Hinton won back-to-back championships but was removed as coach in July 2018 due to his substance abuse problem.

A second set of charges including possession of a dangerous drug (methamphetamine), possession of a narcotic drug (heroin), possession of a prescription-only drug, possession of marijuana, and three counts of possession of drug paraphernalia stemmed from an incident the afternoon of Nov. 17, 2019, in which Hinton was found smoking heroin in a truck with a female companion in an area behind the Haven Nursing home off Peppertree Drive. 

Hinton’s plea deal in 2020 sentenced him to one year in prison on a guilty charge of solicitation to commit shoplifting – a Class-6 felony. 

The plea settled three separate cases against him dating back to May 2019, and he also pleaded guilty to possession of a dangerous drug – a Class-4 felony, possession of drug paraphernalia – a Class-6 felony, and DUI-drug – a Class-1 misdemeanor.

Hinton was also given a three-year probation term for his drug charges to be served upon his release from prison, and 10 days in jail along with one year of unsupervised probation on the DUI-drug charge. On the DUI charge, nine days will be suspended upon completion of alcohol/substance abuse screening, and he was also ordered to a treatment program within six months of sentencing. The year in prison and period of probation were stipulated in the plea agreement, however, the length of the term on probation was up to the discretion of the court.

Regarding the new charges, in January, according to an investigative report from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Hinton met an undercover DPS agent in a desert area south of Safford and sold him 185 counterfeit Oxycodone pills for $700. The pills field tested positive for fentanyl, an opioid many times more potent than heroin and the number one cause of drug overdoses in Graham County. 

According to the agent’s video and audio recordings, the men also made plans for the agent to purchase 1,000 pills from Hinton but Hinton’s pill connection was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) the evening he was to get the pills and that deal fell through.

Hinton received his second set of charges after allegedly dropping a bag of 16.5 counterfeit Oxycodone pills at Home Depot after making a return on March 10. 

A Thatcher Police report lists surveillance footage from the store showing Hinton making his return and then as he places his wallet back into his pants a plastic baggie with the pills falls out. 

Hinton is then shown on surveillance footage, according to the Thatcher report, making a transaction at the self-check counter and then leaving the store. An employee then noticed the baggie soon after and collected it for management, who then alerted the police. 

He was arrested on March 24 on a warrant and booked into the Graham County Adult Detention Facility.