Operation Tarheel Gauntlet nets multiple arrests, seizures

Published 11:03 am Friday, February 15, 2019

A four-day operation on major highways by the Rowan and Iredell County sheriff’s offices led to the arrests of a number of people of drug and weapons charges.

Operation Tarheel Gauntlet was conducted Monday through Thursday on Interstate 85 in Rowan County and Interstates 40 and 77 in Iredell County. The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office’s Crime Reduction Unit and the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office’s Interstate Criminal Enforcement Team led the operation.

Officers seized methamphetamine, marijuana, firearms, vehicles and cash. 

Arrests were made on charges of trafficking in methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and carrying concealed weapons. Four people were arrested on outstanding warrants.  

On Monday, deputies working on southbound Interstate 85 stopped a burgundy 1999 Toyota Corolla with North Carolina registration for a routine traffic violation. 

The driver and owner of the vehicle was David Warren Sandford Jr., 32, of High Point. Montino Deshaun Dalton, 28, of Eden, was a passenger. When deputies approached the vehicle, they smelled marijuana. 

The vehicle was searched, and deputies found a loaded .9-millimeter handgun in the center console and a bag containing about 700 grams of marijuana under the front passenger seat. The value of the marijuana seized was about $1,500.  

Dalton was charged with possession of marijuana, possession with intent to sell or deliver marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Dalton was jailed under a $25,000 secured bond. 

Sandford was charged with possession of marijuana, possession with intent to sell or deliver marijuana, maintaining a vehicle for keeping and selling controlled substances, possession of drug paraphernalia and carrying a concealed weapon. Sandford was also jailed on a $25,000 bond.   

On Tuesday, deputies again working on southbound I-85 stopped a black Nissan Altima with Maryland registration for a routine traffic violation. The driver and owner of the Altima was Octavio Lizarraga Ayala, 40, of Baltimore. 

Ayala consented to a search of the vehicle. Deputies found about 2.2 pounds of what they believed to be methamphetamine concealed in a bag on the front passenger seat.  

Also seized was about $2,000 in cash. Deputies say Ayala was traveling from Maryland to the metro Charlotte area. The value of the narcotics seized was about $100,000.��

Ayala was charged with two counts of trafficking in methamphetamine (Level III); possession of drug paraphernalia; and maintaining a vehicle for keeping and selling controlled substances. He was held on a $520,000 secured bond. 

Ayala is a native of Sinaloa, Mexico, and is in the United States illegally, investigators said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security assisted in the investigation, which is continuing.

The Iredell County Sheriff’s Office said the operation seized 2.2 pounds of crystal meth; 1.5 pounds of high-grade marijuana; two handguns; $2,326 in cash; and two vehicles.