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News Nineteen members of meth trafficking ring charged

Multiple drug charges in joint investigation

Nineteen members of a methamphetamine trafficking ring have been charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Thirteen of those charged were arrested on Wednesday, May 29, during an early morning round-up conducted by federal, state and local law enforcement.

“Our agency and members of our Narcotics Unit spent many hours involved in this investigation during the past year,” said Macon County Sheriff Robert L. Holland. “This investigation is a good example of when citizens report suspicious drug activity to law enforcement and they think nothing is being done about it ... there’s a good chance there is. Never hesitate reporting suspicious activity because the best eyes and ears in the community are the citizens that live within that community.”

The arrests are the result of a multi-agency investigation conducted by DEA, ATF, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Macon County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Swain County Sheriff’s Office, Franklin Police Department, and Cherokee Indian Police Department to target and reduce the trafficking of methamphetamine in Western North Carolina.

In making last Thursday’s announcement, U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins stated, “Methamphetamine is harmful not only to those who create or use it but also to those who are exposed to it, often including young children. Together with our law enforcement partners we will continue our relentless pursuit of meth trafficking rings that operate in our communities, plague our neighborhoods and imperil our children.”

Harry S. Sommers, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division commented on the case.

“The successful results of this investigation should let criminals who flood the drug market with methamphetamine know that DEA and its multi-level law enforcement partners will disrupt, dismantle and ultimately destroy their drug distribution networks,” said Sommers.

“Drug dealers are poison enough to our communities, but when you include a drug dealer who also deals in guns that have the high potential of being used in violent crimes, it becomes a top priority of ATF to stop them and hold them accountable for their criminal conduct,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Wayne L. Dixie. “Anyone who deals in the illegal transfer of firearms and manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs can be assured that the full wrath and resources of the federal government will be used to remove them from our neighborhoods.”

According to allegations contained in the criminal indictment unsealed today in U.S. District Court, from in or about May of 2012 to in or about April of 2013, the 19 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, which has a street value of $100 per gram.

The indictment alleges that the defendants carried out their drug conspiracy primarily in Jackson, Haywood, Macon, Swain and Buncombe counties in Western North Carolina.

The following individuals were named and charged in the methamphetamine conspiracy indictment.

  • Cipriano Ramos Altamirano, 25, of Franklin, N.C.; was arrested and charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of distribution of a controlled substance.
  • Claude Gregory Coggins, 50, of Cullowhee, N.C. was arrested and charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
  • Anne Harvey Cresswell, 42, of Franklin, was arrested and charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
  • Joseph Daniel Denmark, 32, of Franklin, arrest pending, is charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
  • Patricia Leigh Dreml, 48, of Bryson City, N.C., was arrested and charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
  • Daniel Furman Gibson, 50, of Franklin, was arrested and charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
  • Gerardo Beltran Llanas, 43, of Franklin, was arrested and charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
  • Carlos Lopez, 28, of Canton, N.C., arrest pending, is charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
  • Forest Shane Lynn, 42, of Robbinsville, N.C., was arrested and charged with narcotics conspiracy, and multiple counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
  • Joshua Bryan Parker, 29, of Franklin, was arrested and charged with narcotics conspiracy, and multiple counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
  • Eddie Dwayne Potts, 42, of Cullowhee, arrest pending, is charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
  • Gerardo Rodriquez-Aragon, 30, of Franklin, was arrested and is charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of distribution of a controlled substance.
  • Javier Serna-Trejo, 30, of Clayton, Ga, was arrested and charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
  • Chad Keith Shuler, 36, of Franklin, arrest pending, is charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
  • Paul Michael Swofford, 46, of Franklin, arrest pending, is charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
  • Ronald Edward Swofford, 39, of Franklin, was arrested and charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
  • James Homer Taylor, 52, of Franklin, was arrested and charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of distribution of a controlled substance and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
  • Heather Marie West, 24, of Canton, arrest pending, is charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
  • Angela Leigh Wike, 39, of Bryson City, was arrested and charged with narcotics conspiracy, multiple counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

A separate indictment also unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court charged Taylor and David Carlton Martin, 57, of Franklin, with one count of dealing in firearms without a license.

Martin was also arrested during the early morning round-up.

All 19 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. Taylor and Martin face a maximum prison term of five years and a $250,000 fine for the firearms charge.

The 13 defendants arrested on May 29, appeared in U.S. District Court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Howell on Thursday, May 30.

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 prosecution is being handled for the government by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Kent of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville.





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