05/27/10 — Duplin deputies find $1 million of meth in saddles

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Duplin deputies find $1 million of meth in saddles

By Nelson Bland
Published in News on May 27, 2010 1:46 PM

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Arturo Jose Almendarez-Carcamo

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Surrounded by horse saddles and an estimated $1 million worth of methamphetamine in plastic bags, Duplin County Sheriff Blake Wallace, second from left, talks to the press Wednesday about the seizure of the drugs, which he said is the largest haul of meth in eastern North Carolina and possibly the state. The drug was concealed in 14 saddles. Also shown, from left: Beulaville Police Chief Joey Carter and state probation and parole officers Louis Adams and Linda Grady.

BEULAVILLE -- One of the largest, if not the largest, seizures of methamphetamine in the state has been made in Duplin County, Duplin County Sheriff Blake Wallace announced at a news conference Wednesday.

Wallace said 17 pounds of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of more than $1 million was seized in the arrest of Arturo Jose Almendarez-Carcamo, 22, of 1517 Blind Bridge Road, Magnolia.

The suspect is an illegal immigrant, Wallace said.

The methamphetamine was found stashed in 14 horse saddles, three that were in the suspect's vehicle and 11 located elsewhere.

Wallace said since other suspects might be charged in the case and because the investigation is still under way, he could not elaborate as to where the 11 saddles were found.

Almendarez-Carcamo was charged with three counts of trafficking in methamphetamine, maintaining a dwelling or vehicle for a controlled substance, manufacture of a controlled substance, possession with intent to manufacture, sell and deliver a controlled substance, assault on a government official and fleeing to elude arrest. Wallace said Almendarez-Carcamo tried to flee from officers and assaulted one officer during the arrest. He was jailed under a $1.5 million bond in the Duplin County Jail.

Almendarez-Carcamo was taken into custody when deputies stopped his vehicle just outside of Rose Hill on a rural road. Wallace said the Sheriff's Office had received information that Almendarez-Carcamo was transporting large amounts of methamphetamine into the county.

Wallace said the suspect does not own any horses and there were none at his residence. He said the saddles were apparently used because the suspect probably thought law officers would not check a saddle for drugs.

The sheriff said the Beulaville Police Department and Chief Joey Carter and officers of the SBI, state Probation and Parole Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Duplin County Drug Task Force and the Duplin Interstate Criminal Enforcement worked on the case.

Wallace said the investigation revealed that Almendarez-Carcamo "came into our county for the sole purpose of establishing a criminal project."

A detainer was placed on the suspect by the ICE officials and "he will be deported at some point" after the case goes through court, Wallace said.

More arrests in the case are possible, Wallace said. He added that he would ask the FBI to possibly assist with the case because the point of origin of the illegal drugs is probably out of state.

"We do believe there are others involved, but no one else has been charged at this point," Wallace said. "But it is an ongoing investigation, and we expect more arrests in the future."

Concerning the saddles, Wallace said drug dealers are "becoming more ingenious with ways to try to hide drugs." He said he has seen drugs hidden in wheel rims, secret compartments of vehicles and in other unusual locations.

"But this is the first I've seen any in saddles. How many people would walk up to a saddle and think there are drugs in it? If you think about it, it is pretty ingenious."