09/19/08 — Recent drug ring arrests part of DEA raid

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Recent drug ring arrests part of DEA raid

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on September 19, 2008 1:41 PM

Law enforcement officials revealed this week that several recent major cocaine trafficking arrests in Wayne County were related to "Project Reckoning," a Drug Enforcement Administration roundup of a Mexican-based illegal drug operation known as the Gulf Cartel.

A press release from the office of U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey showed arrests in both Wayne and Johnston counties were part of the operation.

Wayne and Johnston, along with Durham, Wake and Wilson counties, in February became part of a "high-intensity drug trafficking area" -- designated as such by the U.S. President's Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Lawmen in the designated counties are working with federal authorities and other law enforcement agencies "to work together in multi-agency initiatives, share intelligence and information and provide data to measure their performance," according to a White House drug policy document, "Disrupting the Market for Illegal Drugs."

According to the release, all of the arrests made in Wayne County were for cocaine trafficking on Sept. 16. The men arrested are alleged members of the Gulf Cartel.

At least five people named on U.S. Department of Justice news release were arrested weeks earlier on cocaine charges, according to arrest records of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

Members of the Aggressive Criminal Enforcement Team arrested Hector Ramos Avellaneda, 23, of Virginia Beach, Va., and Antione Lambert, 24, of Brodnax, Va., on Sept. 4 after a traffic stop.

Three other men, Juan Acosta Vasquez, 30, Reynoldo Garcia Vasquez, 28, and Israel Garcio Vasquez, 22, of Slick Rock Road, were arrested after a raid of their home on or about Sept. 4, according to a Sheriff's Office news release.

A member of the county's Aggressive Criminal Enforce-ment Team said that between the two raids about a kilogram of cocaine was seized.

Only two men named on the Justice Department news release had not appeared in Wayne County Sheriff's Office arrest reports before Sept. 16.

Those men, Pablo Martinez Avellaneda, 34, of Magnolia and Sergio Ramon Perales Reyna, 20, of Trenton, are charged with trafficking cocaine, according to the Justice Department news release.

Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders said the arrests prove that Wayne's designation as a "High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area" -- or HIDTA -- would have positive effects on combating the illegal drug trade here.

"The HIDTA is a good thing -- the group provides for us to work together," Winders said. "(Large quantities of dangerous drugs) are coming from another country, so it takes everybody working together."

Winders said that he often hears from citizens asking him to do something about the drug problem, and said that targeting some of the area's main travel corridors -- Interstate 40, I-95, U.S. 13 and N.C. 111 -- reveals that large caches of drugs are coming from Mexico.

The sheriff said this is one reassurance that although law enforcement cannot always reveal everything about investigations, something is being done.

"It does take time (to combat illegal drug use)," Winders said. "Sometimes we just can't tell what and when we're doing something. We're going to continue working drugs. This sends a clear message to all of them."