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Friday, 18 August 2017 12:59

Complaint documents New Jersey to Scotland Neck heroin pipeline

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Ties to a Patterson, New Jersey, heroin pipeline and a Scotland Neck drug trafficking organization are shown in a criminal complaint documenting the arrests of a Columbus County couple.

The 16-page document also shows ties to two men arrested in March following a traffic stop on Interstate 95.

Documents contained in electronic federal court files show Tara Finis Simmons and Charles Lee Wright Jr. face charges of possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin.

The husband and wife had their initial appearance before Magistrate Judge James E. Gates in Raleigh Thursday. Gates set a probable cause and detention hearing for 10 a.m. Tuesday and the couple were remanded to U.S. Marshal custody, a minute entry in the proceedings says.

Simmons and Wright were stopped late Wednesday night outside Scotland Neck. Approximately 102 bricks of heroin were found in the vehicle they were driving.

 

Complaint

 

The criminal complaint was filed late Thursday by a Nash County Sheriff’s Office lieutenant sworn as a federal task force officer through the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The document begins with a recap of the March 13 arrests of Herbert Lamont Cherry and Tony Reams after the pair were returning to North Carolina after buying multiple bricks of heroin in New Jersey for what the task force officer describes as a drug trafficking organization operating out of Scotland Neck, Tarboro and Nash County.

Cherry this week entered a guilty plea in that case.

Reams, according to the document, made several statements regarding the heroin and names of other people within the operation working out of Scotland Neck, including its leader.

In that interview Reams identified Simmons, who goes by the street name T-baby, as reputedly being the organization’s usual courier but a feud with the leader at the time caused her and Wright to back out.

Reams received a call from the leader to act as the courier, a pickup and delivery which led to his and Cherry’s arrest.

 

August 7

 

The federal task force officer on August 7 applied for and received a court order authorizing installation and monitoring of a trace and trap device with GPS and Geolocation capabilities.

On Wednesday, the federal task force officer contacted Verizon Wireless to report the data was not being sent out for this target telephone. He learned that afternoon Simmons requested her cell number be ported to a different provider.

After locating the correct provider the agent requested the same geolocation information as in the original order.

 

First location alert

 

Around 7 p.m. Wednesday, the agent received an alert indicating Simmons and Wright were near Woodbridge, Virginia, and were traveling south on Interstate 95, “more than likely, returning from Patterson, New Jersey.”

The task force agent deployed several law enforcement officers from various agencies to include Nash, Edgecombe and Halifax counties as well as DEA agents to respond to the North Carolina and Virginia state lines.

Shortly before 11 p.m., the suspect vehicle was located and observed traveling south on Highway 125 toward Scotland Neck.

City County Drug Task Force Captain A.M. Harris paced the 2017 Nissan Murano, which Simmons was driving, at an estimated speed of 58 in a 45 mile per hour zone.

Harris conducted the stop near the intersection of Highway 125 and Access Road.

During the encounter, Harris immediately detected an odor of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle and notified City County Drug Task Force Agent D.R. Radford, who arrived with his dog, Tony.

 

Canine sniff

 

With Simmons out of the vehicle, Radford had Tony perform a canine sniff of the outside of the vehicle. Tony gave a positive alert to the driver’s side back corner panel for the presence of narcotics.

Simmons, according to the complaint, admitted she had smoked marijuana in the vehicle earlier.

The vehicle was searched by members of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office with the assistance of Radford.

Shortly before 11:30 p.m., Radford located three packages wrapped in black electrical tape. The packages were located in the rear spare tire storage area.

Simmons and Wright, who was sitting in the back seat, were arrested and taken to the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office.

The couple’s 11-year-old daughter, who was sitting in the front seat, was also transported to Halifax for safety until a family could be notified.

The suspected heroin was field tested with positive results by members of the City County Drug Task Force.

There was a total of 102 bricks of heroin located which contained fifty baggies in each brick.

 

Interviews

Wright waived his Miranda Rights and explained he and his wife left Sunday for New Jersey to visit family and shop.

He maintained he had no idea what kind of contraband was in the vehicle.

Simmons denied any knowledge of any type of contraband as well, but did state she and her husband had driven to Patterson approximately six previous times.

In concluding the affidavit the federal task force agent wrote, “The information contained in this affidavit reveals that beginning on an unknown date in 2017 and continuing until or about August 17,  2017, Wright and Simmons conspired to distribute and possess with intent to distribute one hundred grams or more of heroin and possessed with intent to distribute one hundred grams or more of heroin. I believe that there is probable cause for the issuance of this criminal complaint and arrest of the aforementioned individuals.”

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