The Wilkes Sheriff’s Office’s latest round of felony drug arrests reflects the increased prevalence of imported methamphetamine in Wilkes County, said Capt. Craig Dancy, who heads the agency’s narcotics unit.
“Everything has gone to meth now,” said Dancy when he announced these latest cases on Dec. 18. Charges against all but four of 35 defendants in the latest round include meth offenses.
“And they’re not making it here anymore because it can’t compete” with meth produced by drug cartels in Mexico, said Dancy. “We haven’t found a meth lab (in Wilkes) in two years.”
He said laws requiring retailers to keep records of people who buy household ingredients used in simple “one-pot” meth labs, once prevalent across Appalachia, are also a factor.
Dancy said other new laws and greater awareness have made it harder to get prescription pain pills for illegal purposes. “Doctors around here have done a great job” with this, he said.
He said people addicted to opioids from taking pain pills in many cases are now using meth, while fear of ingredients in heroin is still making it less popular locally.
Arrests of five people from California, among the 35 announced Dec. 18, accounted for much of a recent sharp rise in meth seized in sheriff’s office cases. Dancy said the leader of the five, Jose Manuel Zazueta, 28, claimed to be part of the Sinaloa cartel, based in Mexico’s Pacific coast state of Sinaloa.
He said Zazueta and John Somphone Vongxay, 36, another of the five, are federal fugitives facing drug charges in California.
Sheriff’s office narcotics officers arrested Zazueta and Julisa Placensia Perez, 23, in Country Square trailer park on N.C. 16-18 near Wilkesboro on Oct. 16 as part of an undercover operation after learning a meth delivery from California was expected at a residence there.
Vongxay, Victor Madrigal, 23, and Jacqueline Esmeralda Ramirez, 28, all from San Diego, Calif., were arrested the next day at a Wilkesboro motel. Zazueta and Perez have the same address in Imperial Beach, Calif., south of San Diego near the Mexican border.
Dancy said investigators learned that the five were together when they drove from California to Florida and then North Carolina, delivering meth along the way. Dancy said 895 grams of meth were seized when Zazueta and Perez were arrested and 4,984 grams when the other three were arrested.
The sheriff’s office charged Zazueta and Vongxay with three counts each of trafficking in more than 400 grams of meth, the highest level of meth trafficking.
Perez and Ramirez are charged with three counts each and Vongxay with one count of conspiracy to traffic in meth. Zazueta, Perez and Vongxay are charged with maintaining a vehicle for a controlled substance.
Zazueta and Vongxay are charged with possession with intent to sell and deliver (PWISD) meth and Vongxay is charged with delivering meth.
Total amounts of controlled substances seized in cases announced Friday are 6,876 grams (15 pounds) of meth worth about $250,000 on the street; about 60 pain pills worth about $2,000, 60 more pills worth about $2,000 (Fentanyl made to look like Oxycodone), four grams of heroin worth about $400 and 100 grams of marijuana.
Other trafficking cases
Among cases announced Dec. 18, four people are charged with conspiring with each other to traffic in meth. They are Billy Joe Taylor, 31, Yellow Banks Road, North Wilkesboro; Terry Eugene Wagoner, 31, Jenkin Park Drive, North Wilkesboro; and Dalton Alexander Royal, 22, and Lauren Nicole Huffman, 21, of the same address on Chickadee Drive, Millers Creek.
Dancy said 84 grams of meth were seized when the four were arrested at a home on N.C. 18 North about a month ago. Royal is also charged with three counts and Huffman with one count of trafficking in meth. Royal, Taylor and Huffman are charged with PWISD meth. Royal is also charged with maintaining a vehicle for controlled substances and selling meth.
Other trafficking cases in the latest round, which Dancy called “Operation Naughty List” in recognition of the holiday season, are:
• Trisha Marie Nelson, 44, Country Square Drive, Wilkesboro, trafficking in meth (highest three) and maintaining a dwelling for keeping a controlled substance. Nelson and Ashley Nicole Jones, 24, Wilkesboro, are charged with conspiring with each other to sell meth. Jones and Nelson are both charged with PWISD meth and Jones is charged with selling meth.
Dancy said 688 grams of meth and 60 pills containing Fentanyl, but pressed to look like Oxycodone pills were seized when Nelson was arrested.
• Jonathan Shawn Robbins, 43, Ronda, two counts of trafficking in meth, PWISD meth and maintaining a vehicle for controlled substances. Dancy said Robbins was bringing 85 grams of meth from Winston-Salem to Wilkes when it was found in his vehicle after he was stopped Dec. 16 at the Red, White and Blue Road exit of U.S. 421.
Other meth cases
Jeremy Scott Walker, 28, Winkler Mill Road, Wilkesboro; Tyler Alexander Grimes, 30, N.C. 18 South Moravian Falls; and Destiny Marie Church, 22, Stone Ridge Lane, North Wilkesboro, are charged with PWISD meth in connection with meth sold from Walker’s home, said Dancy. Walker is charged with keeping a place for controlled substances and other two are charged with conspiring with Walker.
Lee Norris Elliott, 41, South Recreation Road, Wilkesboro, and Larissa Dean Barnes, 40, Dowell Ridge Road, North Wilkesboro, are charged with PWISD meth in the same case. Elliott is also charged with maintaining a vehicle for controlled substances and with possessing marijuana.
John Christopher Davis, 33, Shepherd River Road, Millers Creek, and Brandy Noreen Frazier, 47, East Brocktown Road, Moravian Falls, are charged with PWISD marijuana and Davis is also charged with possessing meth and heroin and maintaining a vehicle for a controlled substance in the same case.
Angela Renee Anderson, 40, Moravian Creek Drive, Moravian Falls, is charged with two counts each of PWISD meth, selling meth and maintaining a dwelling for controlled substances.
Bryan Marroquin, 24, Jolly Street, North Wilkesboro, and Tabitha Byrd, 30, Fletcher, are charged with possessing meth in unrelated cases. Jessi Lee Mash, 27, Boone Trail, North Wilkesboro, is charged with PWISD meth and possessing marijuana.
Charged with PWISD meth in unrelated cases are Davina Dawn Wilcox, 43, Old N.C. 18, McGrady; Scottie Ray Hamby, 46, Shingle Gap Road, Purlear; Harold Dean Holland, 38, Lankford Lane, North Wilkesboro; Eric Logan Reavis, 21, Broadway Tower Road, North Wilkesboro; Tommy Cheek, 53, Elledge Mill Road, North Wilkesboro; Joesky Obrian Barnes, 31, N.C. 18 South, Moravian Falls; Jeffery Lynn Mulcahy, 59, Green Acres Road, Millers Creek; and Melissa Logan Byers, 49, Zacks Street, Millers Creek.
Byers, Mulcahy and Cheek are also charged with maintaining a place for controlled substances. Joesky Barnes and Holland are charged with selling meth. Reavis is also charged with selling a counterfeit controlled substance.
In cases not involving meth, James Louis Hairston, 27, East Brocktown Road, Moravian Falls, is charged with PWISD pain pills and maintaining a vehicle for controlled substances; Daniel Narvaez, 19, West Waugh Street, North Wilkesboro, is charged with PWISD marijuana; Earl Edgar Wagoner, Dillard Road, Hays; is charged with PWISD pain pills, selling pain pills and maintaining a dwelling for controlled substances; and Sierra Nicole Hamilton, 24, Elkin Highway, North Wilkesboro, is charged with possessing pain pills.
Investigations in the cases announced Dec. 18 began as far back as September. Dancy said the Wilkesboro Police Department, Yadkin County Sheriff’s Office, Det. Tim Sims and his assigned dog, Mick, of the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation assisted.