Families of deputies caught in drug sting sob in court
Posted May 1, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Dozens of relatives and friends of a group of law enforcement officers suspected of trafficking drugs along the East Coast wept bitterly in a Raleigh federal courtroom Friday morning as the suspects made their first appearance.
FBI agents arrested 15 people, including seven current or former Northampton County deputies and three North Carolina corrections officers, on Thursday after a grand jury issued a 54-count indictment that accuses them of moving large quantities of cocaine and heroin through North Carolina for distribution in South Carolina and Maryland.
More than a dozen armed officers were in the federal courtroom, and they were joined by Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp and some of his deputies. Tripp passed along a tip to the FBI about illegal activities by members of the Northampton County Sheriff's Office, which prompted the two-year "Operation Rockfish" federal and state sting investigation that culminated in the arrests.
About 40 people supporting the suspects also were in the federal courtroom, and many could be seen crying and praying throughout the 90-minute hearing.
Jimmy Pair Jr., who was fired Thursday as a Northampton County deputy, also cried during the hearing, and as he was led back to jail, he mouthed to his family, "I love you. It's going to be OK."
A young woman who appeared to be Pair's daughter sobbed, “Daddy. Daddy."
Later, family members expressed confidence that the suspects would be acquitted.
"God has all of them in their hands. They will be just fine – just fine," said Elone Hockaday, a cousin of Odom Correctional Institution officer Adrienne Moody. "Nobody knows what went but the man upstairs. God bless them all."
"My father is not what you would call a crooked cop. My father is a great person, very family-oriented," said Tyshon Alston, the son of former Northampton County deputy Cory Jackson. "I know the type of person he is. I know the character he embodies. I know all of these things. I also know that, at the end of the day, my father's going to make it out."
Alston said he believes the FBI set up the officers for arrest and that the "mentality of the public right now," with protests nationwide over various shootings and deaths linked law enforcement will make it difficult to clear their names.
"Even if they’re 100 percent innocent, being that they’re police, that title itself makes people want to put them more in guilt," he said.
The federal indictment charges the following people with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin and with carrying and using firearms in relation to drug trafficking offenses:
- 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 Jackson, 43, and Wardie Vincent Jr., 35, the son of a former Northampton County sheriff
- Northampton County 911 dispatcher Tosha Dailey, 31
- North Carolina Department of Public Safety corrections officers Moody, 39, Alaina Sue-kam-ling, 27, and Kavon Phillips, 25. Like Moody, Phillips work at Odom Correctional Institution in Jackson, while Sue-kam-ling works at Brown Creek Correctional Institution in Polkton.
- Windsor police officer Antonio Tillman, 31.
- Virginia Department of Corrections officers Lann Tjuan Clanton, 36, a former Weldon police officer, and Alphonso Ponton, 42
- Raleigh resident Crystal Pierce, 31
The law enforcement officers also face bribery charges, and some of the defendants also were charged with attempted extortion, money laundering and using a firearm during a violent crime.
Some of the suspects were arrested at the Halifax-Northampton Regional Airport in Halifax, and the rest were picked up at a Rocky Mount warehouse. Authorities said the group used both locations to move shipments of drugs.
Authorities have released few other details of the investigation, which they said remains active and could lead to more arrests.
Northampton County Sheriff Jack Smith, who learned of the investigation only after the arrests, said all five deputies have been fired.