DEC 30 (ASHEVILLE, N.C.) – Twelve members of a methamphetamine trafficking ring have been charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Seven of those charged were arrested on Tuesday, December 10, 2013, during an early morning round-up conducted by federal, state and local law enforcement, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Three of the named defendants remain fugitives.
U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today's announcement by Harry S. Sommers, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which oversees the Charlotte District Office and Wayne L. Dixie, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
The arrests are the result of a multi-agency investigation to target and reduce the trafficking of methamphetamine in Western North Carolina and was conducted by DEA, ATF, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, the Marion Police Department, the McDowell County Sheriff's Office, the Yancey County Sheriff's Office, the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office, as well as the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the Cowpens Police Department and the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office in South Carolina.
According to allegations contained in the criminal indictment unsealed on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 in U.S. District Court, from about June 2011 to July 2013, the defendants did knowingly conspire to possess with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of actual methamphetamine or more than 500 grams of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine. The indictment alleges that the defendants carried out their drug conspiracy primarily in Buncombe, Cleveland and McDowell counties in Western North Carolina.
The following individuals were named and charged in the methamphetamine conspiracy indictment.
George Wade Cook (a/k/a "Rooster"), 52, of Caser, N.C. (in custody)
Gregory Ray DeHart, 44, of Marion, N.C. (in custody)
Ramona Jamison Lail, 48, of Marion. (in custody)
Jimmy Dwayne Lawing (a/k/a "Dick"), 45 of Marion. (in custody)
Carlos Alvarado Mendoza (a/k/a "Tequila"), 39 of Candler, N.C. (in custody)
John Louis Pivonka, 42 of Marion. (in custody)
Tommy Ray Sisk, 56 of Old Fort, N.C. (in custody)
John Matthew Frady, (a/k/a "Ghost"), 39, of Cowpens, S.C. (in state custody)
Jeffrey Kirkland, 41, of Gainesville, Ga. (in federal custody in Georgia)
Miguel Santos-Maldonado (a/k/a "Mateo Segura"), 42, of Gainesville, Ga. (fugitive)
Rigoberto Alvarado Mendoza (a/k/a "Big Boy"), 42 of Arden, N.C. (fugitive)
Taide Alvarado Vergara, 27, of Candler (fugitive)
All twelve defendants in the methamphetamine trafficking ring have been charged with engaging in a narcotics conspiracy and they face a statutory minimum prison term of ten years and a maximum term of life imprisonment, and a $10 million fine. (See chart below for a breakdown of additional federal charges and maximum penalties for each defendant).
The seven defendants arrested in North Carolina had their arraignment and detention hearings on Monday, December 16, 2013, before U.S. District Court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Howell. All seven were detained pending trial.
The charges contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The investigation is being handled by DEA, ATF, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, the Marion Police Department, the McDowell County Sheriff's Office, the Yancey County Sheriff's Office, the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office, as well as the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the Cowpens Police Department and the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office in South Carolina.
The prosecution is being handled for the government by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Kent of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Asheville.
The DEA encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA's interactive websites at www.justthinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.