Thirteen current and former law enforcement officers from Eastern North Carolina were arrested Thursday as part of an undercover drug-trafficking sting that started with a tip to the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office almost two years ago.
The sting led to drug conspiracy and weapon charges against seven current or former Northampton County deputies, three state corrections officers, a Northampton County emergency dispatcher, a Windsor police officer, a former Weldon police officer, a Raleigh resident and a Virginia corrections officer.
In a news conference Thursday, top federal prosecutors and state and federal law enforcement agents offered a glimpse of what they described as a coordinated attempt to move what they thought were large shipments of cocaine and heroin through North Carolina to other East Coast states.
“When officers violate the trust that the public has instilled in them, it tears at the very core of what holds a community together,” said Thomas Walker, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. “The people of North Carolina deserve law enforcement officers who will serve and protect, not those who will violate the promises they have made.”
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The 15 people accused were arrested Thursday morning after being picked up at the Halifax-Northampton Regional Airport and a Rocky Mount warehouse.
The group at the airport was expecting to move a shipment of drugs, prosecutors said, and those at the warehouse were expecting to pick up a shipment. Investigators from the FBI, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and Halifax County used thousands of dollars in federal grant money to organize and bring about the exchange of fake drugs, according to prosecutors.
John Strong, head of the FBI in North Carolina, said the accused acted with “shock and disbelief” Thursday when they found themselves on the other side of the law. They are due in court Friday morning for a first appearance before a judge.
The investigators provided few details about whether the group arrested had worked extensively together before the FBI got involved. It was not until Thursday, Strong said, that agents informed the Northampton’s Sheriff’s Office and the Windsor Police Department about the investigation that proceeded for two years without the undercover operation being exposed.
A 54-count indictment was unsealed Thursday. Walker and Strong said there will be further investigation.
“Deputies and correctional officers used their law enforcement positions to line their own pockets,” Strong said. “They vowed to protect and serve but instead were motivated by pure greed and tarnished the badges they were trusted to carry.”
The accused are:
▪ Northampton County deputies Ikeisha Jacobs, 32; Jason Boone, 29; Jimmy Pair Jr., 48; Curtis Boone, 31; and Thomas Jefferson Allen II, 37.
▪ Former Northampton County deputies Wardie Vincent Jr., 35, son of the former sheriff there; and Cory Jackson, 43.
▪ Northampton County 911 dispatcher Tosha Dailey, 31.
▪ N.C. Department of Public Safety corrections officers Adrienne Moody, 39; Alaina Kamling, 27; and Kavon Phillips, 25.
▪ Windsor police officer Antonio Tillman, 31.
▪ Virginia Department of Corrections officers Lann Tjuan Clanton, 36, a former Weldon police officer; and Alphonso Ponton, 42; and Raleigh resident Crystal Pierce, 31.
The officials offered only limited details Thursday about how the undercover investigators used federal money and fake drugs to bring the corruption case.
All of the accused face charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin; and carrying and using firearms in relation to drug trafficking offense.
The current officers face bribery charges.
Some also face money laundering charges, attempted extortion and using a firearm during a violent crime.