10/21/05 — Drug distribution cell dismantled

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Drug distribution cell dismantled

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on October 21, 2005 1:53 PM

A two-year investigation into drug trafficking in Wayne County culminated today with the announcement of the conviction of 28 people, including a Mexican lawyer, in federal court and the seizure of $1.6 million in cash, drugs and property.

The campaign that stretched from Goldsboro and Mount Olive to central Mexico was called Operation Goldrush.

During the probe, officers from numerous law-enforcement agencies seized 1,037 pounds of marijuana, 58 kilograms of cocaine, eight firearms, three homes worth a total of $450,000 and 11 vehicles worth $79,000.

The arrests and seizures were announced today by U.S. Attorney Frank Whitney during a news conference in the Goldsboro City Hall.

"The investigation has resulted in the dismantling of this violent drug organization's North Carolina distribution cell based in Wayne County," Whitney said.

Whitney said the lawyer, Alfredo Granados-Garcia, had laundered more than $70 million in drug money. Granados-Garcia was sentenced to 15-year sentences for drug conspiracy and money laundering.

Drugs and cash were seized in Goldsboro, Newton Grove, the Texas border towns of McAllen and Laredo and Atlanta. Drugs and cash were found stashed in cement mixers, vehicle door panels and other out-of-the-way places.

A kilogram of cocaine and $9,955 were seized May 27, 2004, in Goldsboro, and $8,300 was seized May 20, 2004, from Granados-Garcia and another person by the Highway Patrol in Newton Grove.

The investigation revealed that the organization was connected to the Gulf Cartel that had distribution cells in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas.

"We hope this sends a message to young people who idolize and glamorize drug dealers with their gold chains and cars. These people may have had that for the time being but now they have lost it all," said Sheriff Carey Winders. "They will spend a lot of time in prison."

The operation started in July, 2003, as an investigation by the Goldsboro-Wayne County Drug Squad.

Police Chief Tim Bell said officers soon determined that the drug cartel spread out of state. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration then joined the effort.

"It came down to our guys working on the streets, making the first case and then other undercover cases," Bell said. "With our link to federal authorities and the DA's Office, it made it much easier for us."

Local officials said the teamwork among agencies made the arrests and seizures possible.

"This operation shows what you can do when agencies work together," District Attorney Branny Vickory said. "Local authorities can do only so much."

Other agencies involved in the operation were the federal Drug Enforcement Admin-istration, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Marshals Service, Internal Revenue Service, the Wake and Franklin County sheriff's offices and the Rocky Mount, Wilson, Raleigh and Durham police departments.