10/23/05 — Wayne law enforcement officers display results of drug work

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Wayne law enforcement officers display results of drug work

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on October 23, 2005 2:04 AM

City councilmen and county commissioners often ask law-enforcement officers what they are doing about drug trafficking. The officers usually can say little about current investigations.

But Friday they spoke volumes about a two-year, joint undercover operation that resulted in the arrest and conviction of 28 people -- including a drug kingpin from Mexico -- and the seizure of 1,053 pounds of marijuana, 127 pounds of cocaine, more than $1.6 million in cash, 11 vehicles and three homes worth more than $450,000.

City, county, state and federal authorities came together to announce the fruits of their labor in a news conference in the Goldsboro City Hall. They believe that the arrests and seizures will put a dent in the local drug trade.

"As this case demonstrates," said Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders. "It takes time, money and manpower to infiltrate these types of organizations. The individuals that were arrested are certainly not the small-time drug dealers that citizens normally hear about. These were big-time suppliers."

"We prosecute state-level crimes at the end of the 'food' chain," said District Attorney Branny Vickory. "The public wants to know why we can't go up the ladder."

Vickory said his 8th District Office and local law-enforcement had limited resources. Only by joining together, he said, could this operation be possible.

Goldsboro Police Chief Tim Bell said the operation would not be the last against the local drug trade.

Winders, Bell and Vickory also thanked the federal agencies -- the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service -- for their help.

What started in July, 2003, as an investigation by the Goldsboro-Wayne County Drug Squad turned quickly into a multi-jurisdictional investigation that was coordinated by the DEA through the Southeast and Texas.

The end result, U.S. Attorney Frank Whitney said, was the dismantling of a violent drug organization's North Carolina cell based in Wayne County.

About $1.1 million in cash was seized in a cement mixer in Wayne County. It was destined for Houston.

Those arrested included Alfredo Granados-Garcia, a Mexican lawyer who was the leader of a cocaine organization that was the focus of the joint investigation, code-named Operation Goldrush. He had laundered more than $70 million in the last three years, federal prosecutors said.

Granados-Garcia was arrested May 20, 2004, by the Highway Patrol in Newton Grove with another man. A total of $8,300 was seized.

Granados-Garcia was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court in Raleigh by Judge Terrance Boyle to 30 years in prison after being convicted of charges of drug conspiracy and money laundering. He also was ordered deported to Mexico.

Another leader in the Gulf Cartel, Arnulfo Ramirez, had been sentenced to 16.5 years for drug conspiracy and money laundering.

Whitney said Operation Goldrush used a team approach that included 14 federal, state and local law agencies.

"As a result of these efforts," the federal prosecutor said, "significant obstacles of penetrating a primarily Hispanic organization with close family ties was overcome with the successful use of innovative as well as traditional law-enforcement techniques, including wiretaps authorized under federal law."

The operation has led to the dismantling of a major drug trafficking organization from the distribution level through the command and control elements. Whitney said Operation Goldrush directly impacted the availability of drugs in the target communities in eastern North Carolina.