Buncombe County Drug Distribution Ring Totally Dismantled
SEP 28 -- ASHEVILLE, NC – Thirty members of a crack cocaine distribution organization which operated in the Asheville/Buncombe County area from January 2008 until early 2009 have been successfully prosecuted in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. In a series of six federal bills of indictment which were filed from February to July 2009, 31 members of a cocaine distribution ring were charged with felony drug counts in federal court. The last defendants who operated as part of the drug distribution conspiracy were sentenced today by the honorable Martin Reidinger in U.S. District Court in Asheville. Seven defendants have received prison terms of more than 15 years; sentences to date have ranged from 30 years in federal prison to two years of federal probation. A list of the defendants is provided later in this release.
Rodney G. Benson, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the DEA Atlanta Field Division (AFD), said, “This criminal network posed a clear and present danger to the safety of the citizens in the Asheville/Buncombe County area of Western North Carolina. Their removal makes this area safer. These prosecutions illustrate that success can be achieved through the cooperative efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement.”
U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins said, “This investigation and prosecution falls within two important categories for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. First, a significant drug distribution organization has been dismantled. That in itself is a success. Additionally, a measurable impact has been felt in the community because 30 drug distributors have been removed from the residential areas in which they were living and distributing drugs.”
“These prosecutions are a result of the dedication and expertise of all the agencies involved,” Asheville Police Chief Bill Hogan said. “This major success further strengthens our commitment to ridding our communities of the devastating effects of drugs.”
According to U.S. Attorney Tompkins, the charges and other information presented in court, all of the defendants are from Asheville/Buncombe County and the surrounding Western North Carolina area. The investigation, code-named “Operation Nuts and Bolts,” is part of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and was initiated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Federal Drug Task Force which is made up of representatives of North Carolina SBI, Asheville Police Department, Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, and McDowell County Sheriff’s Office. As the investigation developed, a number of local law enforcement agencies provided substantial assistance, most specifically the Asheville Police Department.
The investigation ultimately identified the organization’s main leadership as well as its primary source of supply. According to information presented at the trial of Kenneth Lee Foster, 46, of Asheville, which took place in July 2009, Foster was receiving approximately four to five kilograms of cocaine a month from David Jiminez Marin, 32, of Candler, NC, Camillo Figueroa Leon, 30, of Weaverville, NC, and Anay Lopez Beltran, 25, of Woodfin, NC, during the life of the conspiracy. Trial testimony also revealed that Foster converted the cocaine into cocaine base, more commonly known as “crack” cocaine, for distribution to his personal customers. Trial testimony also showed that Foster’s customers would, in turn, further distribute the crack cocaine which they purchased from Foster. A total of 1.5 kilograms of crack cocaine and 2 kilograms of cocaine were seized during the investigation, according to official court documents. At trial, the jury found that Foster was responsible for more than 4.5 kilograms of cocaine base during the period of the conspiracy.
The federal charges contained in the bills of indictment included charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base (“crack” cocaine) and intentionally using a cell phone to carry out the drug conspiracy. According to official court records, approximately $80,000 in U.S. currency, one handgun, and 13 vehicles, valued at approximately $115,000, were seized as a result of the investigation. The entire organization was fully dismantled as a result of the investigation and ensuing federal prosecution, and no one remained who was able to regenerate the operation or resume any of the group’s drug-related operations.
In order to combat drug crime in America, the Justice Department’s OCDETF Program has focused all of its federal member agencies, including the DEA, the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, and U.S. Attorneys on the mission of disrupting and dismantling major drug distribution organizations. Since the beginning of the OCDETF Program in the early 1980's, the coordinated efforts of the Justice Department and its federal, foreign, state, and local counterparts have worked together to bring down drug distribution organizations all across the country. “Operation Nuts and Bolts,” a Western North Carolina operation, was led by the DEA. Also participating in the investigation were the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office and the State Highway Patrol. Alongside the federal and state task force agencies who participated in the investigation were the Brevard Police Department, the Marion Police Department, and the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office.
Each case was handled for the government by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill W. Rose, Chief, Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina, Asheville Office.
Anay Lopez Beltran, 25, of Woodfin, NC
Lakeia Gari Briggs, 31, of Asheville
Dennis Lamar Bruton, 32, of Asheville
Leroy Deangelo Darity, 35, of Brevard, NC
Reginald Lamond Fields, 34, of Asheville
Shala Laronda Nicole Fisher, 22, of Asheville
Doris Denise Foster, 48, of Asheville
Kenneth Lee Foster, 46, of Asheville
Yvonne Marie Fountain, 47, of Asheville
Christopher Allen Harris, 29, of Asheville
Michael Warren Johnson, 30, of Marion, NC
Camilo Figueroa Leon, 30, of Weaverville, NC
Jose Villagrana Lopez
Sulema Villagrana Lopez, 25, of Black Mountain, NC
Erin Marie Renison, 26, of Asheville
US v. Dianna Maria Aleman, et al
Dianna Maria Aleman, 25, of Candler, NC
David Jiminez Marin, 32, of Candler, NC
US v. Bradford D’Vol Allen, et al
Bradford D’Vol Allen, 32, of Asheville
Frank Eugene Caldwell, 61, of Morganton, NC
Taurus Morenzo Cave, 35, of Asheville
Troy Lamont Clement, 40, of Asheville
Kenneth Lee Gardner, 46, of Asheville
Phillip Eugene Hill, 37, of Asheville
Richard Robinson, 31, of Asheville
Virgil Antonio Langford, 33, of Asheville
Grover Andrew Pritchard, Jr., 44, of Morganton, NC
Perry Roger Shippy, 51, of Asheville
US v. Deangelo Marquis Whiteside
Deangelo Marquis Whiteside, 27, of Asheville
US v. Torrey Tederial Ervin, et al
Torrey Tederial Ervin, 35, of Asheville
Toney Eugene Young, 28, of Asheville
US v. Shawntaine Lamar Lowman
Shawntaine Lamar Lowman, 21, of Asheville
Federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
DEA Atlanta’s SAC Benson 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.