Yearlong investigation leads to 26 arrests, convictions in multi-agency meth lab bust

Published 12:06 am Friday, March 25, 2016

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

Rowan authorities say a yearlong methamphetamine investigation with multiple law enforcement agencies led them to arrest 26 people, all of whom were later convicted, after they produced and distributed in excess of $4 million worth of meth.

Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten said during a Thursday press conference that on Oct. 2, 2013, his agency, along with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations, initiated an investigation into an organization involved in obtaining precursor chemicals, producing meth in clandestine labs and then distributing the drugs.

Investigators were also able to identify a group involved in distributing a large amount of crystal meth. During the investigations, detectives and agents found 11 locations in various counties where the methamphetamine was made. Investigators seized multiple hazardous materials associated with the production of meth. Officials say one of those locations was RCC Western Store inside the Concord Mills mall.

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Special Agent Sam Gregory said investigators believe those involved “cooked’ meth inside the store probably about 10 times. He said this case began for Rowan investigators when two Salisbury people involved were arrested in Richmond County after their car blew up as a result of a mobile meth lab.

In three separate instances, meth labs were found inside vehicles, items were seized and processed. Officials said based on interviews, records and seizures, they estimate the group produced and/or distributed meth that had a street value in excess of $4 million.

Officials said numerous debriefings of individuals involved in the operation were conducted and voluminous amounts of records and documents were obtained from pharmacies where pseudoephedrine logs were maintained.

The case was taken to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina. The grand jury for the middle district returned a true bill of indictment on Oct. 1, 2014. All 26 subjects were taken into federal custody during the next three months. The majority of the people were located in North Carolina, but investigators say four were found in Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina and Indiana.

The arrests were made with the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Texas Department of Public Safety. In addition, the following agencies assisted: Stanly County Sheriff’s Office, Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, Salisbury Police Department, Mooresville Police Department and the Landis Police Department.

The following defendants were indicted, prosecuted and sentenced:

• Jessie Don Woodhull, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 110 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release.

• April Marie Woodhull, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 60 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release.

• Georgia Lee Bellamy, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 64 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release.

• Joshua Dean Atwell, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 15 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release.

• Brian Lee Holt, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 12 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release.

• Rickey Harding Wagner, Jr., conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 32 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release to be served consecutive to 618-924-month sentence to N.C. Department of Correction on related sex offense charges.

• Amber Lynn Pierontoni, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 36 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release.

• Jeremy Andrew Atkins, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 60 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release.

• Katie Alexandria Kerr, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 60 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release.

• Sara Elizabeth Horton, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 60 months U.S. Probation with first six months curfew and electronic monitoring.

• Joseph Andrew Daniels, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 45 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years supervised release.

• Nicholas Shane Rabon, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 64 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release.

• Paul Andrew Smith, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 54 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release.

• Albert Ray Barringer, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 78 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release.

• Caleb Shane Whitley pleaded guilty to a series of related and unrelated felony charges in Stanly County Superior Court on March 2, 2015, and received 15 months N.C. Department of Correction, suspended for 18 months of state probation. All federal charges dismissed in lieu of state prosecution.

• Joshua Eran Tarlton, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 90 months confinement U.S. Bureau of Prisoners; three years supervised release; $100 fee; $389.39 restitution for haz-mat removal.

• Kimberly Jayne Davis, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 36 months Bureau of Prisons, one year in-house arrest; two years supervised release; $100 fee; $389.39 restitution for haz-mat removal.

• Jonathon David Hilson, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 50 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release, $100 fee.

• Ricky Charles Holshouser, Jr., conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth and possession with intent to manufacture meth, 54 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release, $100 fee.

• Megan Victoria Yates, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, three years supervised release; $100 fee.

• Lindy Christie Pistone, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 48 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release and $100 fee.

• J.R. Bullard, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 70 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release and $100 fee.

• Michael Eugene Weitzel, III, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 70 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release and $100 fee.

• Sharon Lewis Bruce, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 68 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release, $100 fee plus $352.54 for haz-mat removal fine.

• Nicholas Cody Baker, conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 92 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release, $100 assessment fee plus $352.54 for haz-mat removal fine.

• Gary Wayne Lyles: conspiracy to possession with intent to manufacture meth, 82 months, Bureau of Prisons followed by three years of supervised release and $100 assessment fee.

Officials recovered two firearms during the course of the investigation. Due to the inherent dangers involved with the production of methamphetamine and the hazardous nature of the precursor chemicals and the chemical processes involved, no vehicles or properties used as sites for clandestine methamphetamine labs were seized or processed for forfeiture.

Agents determined that clandestine methamphetamine labs were operated at the following locations — 320 Goodman Drive, Salisbury; 340 Goodman Drive, Salisbury; 165 Scaleybrook Drive, Salisbury; 1070 Matika Drive, Salisbury, 1535 Ribelin Road, Salisbury; 1018 Church Street, Faith; 155 Beth Drive, China Grove; 4385 Highway 200, Stanfield; RCC Western Store, 8111 Concord Mills Boulevard, Concord, (Concord Mills Mall);

In addition to the above addresses, clandestine methamphetamine labs were found inside vehicles at the following locations — U.S. 29, Salisbury; N.C. 150, Mooresville; U.S. 74/N.C. 38, Hamlet.

The investigation and the prosecution of these defendants has led to other related investigations.

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