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Authorities are still seeking Larry Mitchell Snyder, who has an outstanding warrant for drug trafficking charges. Photo submitted.



Originally published: 2013-07-11 21:43:30
Last modified: 2013-07-12 15:37:38

Thirty area residents charged in drug, firearms investigation

by Staff Reports

Thirty North Carolina residents have been charged with methamphetamine trafficking and gun offenses as a result of Operation "Dixie Crystal," the U.S. Attorney's office announced Thursday.

 

To date, 17 defendants have pleaded guilty to the charges, according to a news release from Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

 

Operation "Dixie Crystal" is a joint drug task force operation that began in 2012 to target significant methamphetamine traffickers in Ashe, Allegheny, Caldwell, Watauga and Wilkes counties, as well as Johnson County, Tenn.

 

Beginning in 2003, the co-conspirators have sold more than 200 pounds of methamphetamine with a street value of more than $4 million, according to court documents and proceedings. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized about 30 guns, five vehicles, 20 pounds of meth and $150,000 in cash.


"The success of this investigation speaks of the continued dedication of our local, state and federal law enforcement partners in targeting and dismantling meth distribution rings that profit by spreading their poison in our communities," Tompkins said. "Strong partnerships such as this one underscore the power of our combined forces and demonstrate our collective impact on the war against meth."


Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman echoed Tompkins' statement in an email Thursday.

 

"It is obvious that all agencies -- federal, state and local -- have put a lot of time and effort into these multi-jurisdiction operations, and we will continue to do so," Hagaman said.

 

Ashe County Sheriff James Williams said he was proud of the operation's success and the narcotics officers who worked long hours away from their families.

 

The operation was a prime example of the kind of joint effort between county and federal agencies that is necessary, "to have any chance at curbing drugs in Ashe County," Williams said, and thanked SBI Special Agent Gene Parsons for his role in the bust.

 

"(Parsons) works hand-in-hand every day with my office ... and has played a major role in this effort," Williams said. "The drug dealing will continue, but it will be a new group doing it, because the ones listed in this operation will have a new home for a long while."


Federal criminal indictments unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court charged the following 10 defendants with federal drug charges and related offenses:

-- Larry Mitchell Snyder, 59, of Trade, Tenn., is charged with a drug trafficking charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life. He was indicted by a federal grand jury June 18. Snyder is currently a fugitive in the case, and a warrant for his arrest remains outstanding. A reward is available for information leading to Snyder's arrest. Tips can be called in to 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423). All tipsters will remain anonymous.

-- Earl Butler Potter, 55, of Todd, is charged with a drug trafficking offense that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. He has been in custody since his arrest July 11, 2012. He was indicted by a federal grand jury June 18.

-- Stephanie Lynn Shatley, 31, of Lansing, is charged with a drug trafficking offense that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. Shatley was indicted by a federal grand jury June 18. She is currently in state custody.

 

--Jared William Pardue, 33, of Zionville, is charged with a drug trafficking offense that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. Pardue was indicted by a federal grand jury June 18. He has been in federal custody since June 25.

-- Tawana M. Sparks, 31, of Hudson, is charged with a drug trafficking offense that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. She was indicted by a federal grand jury June 18 and has been in federal custody since July 11.

-- Courtney Wayne Patterson, 28, of Todd, is charged with drug trafficking and firearms offenses that carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years to life in prison. He has been in custody since his arrest on July 11, 2012, and was indicted by a federal grand jury June 18.

-- Deborah Phillips Lewis, 36, of Todd, is charged with drug trafficking and firearms offenses that carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years to life in prison. She has been in custody since her arrest July 11, 2012, and was indicted by a federal grand jury June 18.

-- James Foy Parsons, 45, of West Jefferson, is charged with a drug trafficking offense that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life. He has been in custody since his arrest July 11, 2012. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 18.

-- Tina Ann Wheeler (a/k/a Tina Ann Miller), 38, of Crumpler, is charged with a drug trafficking offense that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. She has been in custody since her arrest July 11, 2012. She was indicted by a federal grand jury June 18.

-- Ricky Allen Latham, 32, of Creston, is charged with a drug trafficking offense that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. He was indicted by a federal grand jury June 18 and is not yet in custody.

Three additional defendants facing federal drug charges are currently scheduled for trial:

-- Mauricio "Mario" Baltazar, 20, of Lake City, Ga., is charged with four counts of drug trafficking and firearms offenses that carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 40 years to life in prison. Baltazar has been in custody since his arrest April 23 and was indicted by a federal grand jury May 22. His trial is set for this month.

-- Kenneth Herman Bennett, 50, of West Jefferson, is charged with a drug trafficking offense that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years to life in prison. He has been in custody since his arrest April 20. He was indicted by a federal grand jury May 22, and his trial is set for this month.

-- Martin Martinez Saldana, 43, of West Jefferson, is charged with drug trafficking and firearms offenses that carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life in prison. Saldana has been in custody since his arrest and indictment Dec. 13, 2012, and has a September 2013 trial date.

The following 17 defendants have entered guilty pleas and are awaiting sentencing:

-- Jason Michael Benfield, 33, of Laurel Springs, pleaded guilty June 6 to drug trafficking and firearm offenses that carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years to life in prison. Benfield has been in custody since his arrest March 22.

-- Ernest Monroe Parlier, Jr., 28, of Crumpler, pleaded guilty May 16 to drug trafficking and firearm offenses that carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years to life in prison. Parlier has been in custody since his arrest March 21.

-- Jeremy Keith Nunnenkamp, 40, of North Wilkesboro, pleaded guilty June 5 to a drug trafficking charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. He has been in custody since his arrest April 20.

-- Jeffrey Dale Watson, 41, of Fleetwood, has agreed to plead guilty to a drug trafficking charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. Watson has been released on bond. A plea hearing date has not yet been set.


-- James Thomas Hawkins, 39, of Laurel Springs, has agreed to plead guilty to a drug trafficking charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. Hawkins has been released on bond since April 23. A plea hearing date has not yet been set.

-- Chad Morgan Yates, 38, of Chattahoochee Hills, Ga., pleaded guilty May 17 to a drug trafficking charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. He is currently in federal custody.

-- Christy Lee Latham, 36, of Warrensville, pleaded guilty June 19 to a drug trafficking charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. She has been in custody since entry of her guilty plea.

-- Melanie Virginia Osley, 37, of Chattahoochie Hills, Tenn., pleaded guilty June 11 to a drug trafficking charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. Osley has been in custody on the federal charges since her arrest March 21.

-- Luis Enrique Garcia, 46, of Mexico, pleaded guilty Feb. 4 to a drug trafficking charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. Garcia has been in custody since his arrest on the federal charges Dec. 20, 2012.

-- Jose Francisco Jimenez Pina, 46, of Mexico, pleaded guilty Feb. 20 to a drug trafficking charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. He has been in custody since his arrest on the federal charges Dec. 13, 2012.

-- Jose Humberto Jimenez Pina, 25, of Mexico, pleaded guilty Feb. 20 to a drug trafficking charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. He has been in custody since his arrest on the federal charges Dec. 13, 2012.

-- Bobby Giles Shore, 59, of Lansing, pleaded guilty Feb. 22 to a drug trafficking charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. Shore has been in custody since his arrest on the federal charges Dec. 13, 2012.

-- Danny Eller, 53, of West Jefferson, pleaded guilty April 16 to a drug trafficking charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. Eller has been in custody since his arrest on the federal charges Dec. 13, 2012.

-- Cristie Aldridge Dollar, 45, of Foscoe, pleaded guilty April 3 to a drug trafficking charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. She has been in custody since her arrest on the federal charges Dec. 19, 2012.

-- Pamela Ann Corum, 31, of Zionville, pleaded guilty Feb. 13 to a drug trafficking charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison. She has been in custody since her arrest on the federal charges Dec. 19, 2012.


-- Tammy Wynette Woody, 43, of West Jefferson, pleaded guilty May 15 to a bill of information charging her with a single drug trafficking offense that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years to 40 years in prison. Woody has been in custody since her arrest April 22.

-- Javier Sanchez Chavez, 32, of Mexico, pleaded guilty March 21 to a charge of misprision of a felony, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison. He has been in custody since his arrest on the federal charges Dec. 20, 2012.

In making Thursday's announcement, U.S. Attorney Tompkins recognized an array of federal, state and local agencies that partnered in Operation Dixie Crystal, and thanked them for their continued cooperation and support: Brock D. Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations in Georgia and the Carolinas; Harry S. Sommers, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, which oversees the Charlotte District Office; Wayne L. Dixie, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Charlotte Field Division; Greg McLeod, Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation; Sheriff James Williams of the Ashe County Sheriff's Office; Sheriff David Edwards of the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office; Chief Dana Crawford of the Boone Police Department; Sheriff Alan C. Jones of the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office; Sheriff Len D. Hagaman of the Watauga County Sheriff's Office; Sheriff Chris Shew of the Wilkes County Sheriff's Office; and Sheriff Mike Reece of the Johnson County Sheriff's Office in Tennessee.


The investigation is ongoing. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven R. Kaufman of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Charlotte.