CLINTON — Several Sampson County narcotics agents are under investigation for drug trafficking. Now, some drug dealers in the Sampson County jail could go free.
Paul Howell, a narcotics officer in Sampson County, has already been arrested and fired. Three other agents have resigned.
It has created quite a mess for the sheriff's department and local prosecutors.
All the agents worked for the county's Interagency Drug Enforcement Unit. It works out of a different building than the sheriff's department, and all of the county's drug evidence is stored there.
Now, the reliability of that evidence is being called into question since agent Howell was arrested last week.
Sampson County's district attorney said it impacts over 30 pending court cases against drug dealers that the IDE has been investigating because some or all of the drug evidence may have been tampered with.
"We'll have to look closely and see whether or not we can salvage any of those. I seriously doubt that we will be able to salvage many of those cases. It is very discouraging to know that at least 30 drug dealers will go free because of this," said District Attorney Dewey Hudson.
An informant told SBI agents that Howell let him enter the IDE facility and take drugs from the evidence boxes.
Warrants indicate that Howell is suspected of tampering with, distributing and using drugs. Most or all of them came from his agency's office.
The agency actually investigating this case is theSBI.
Warrants that the SBI filed are linking Howell to marijuana, cocaine, crack and speed.
The sheriff expects to reorganize the department to have greater supervision over the IDE.
Crooked officers of the law can cause serious problems like what happened last month in Person County.
More than 60 court cases which were being handled by Roxboro Detective Snapper Grubbs were dropped.
Grubbs was sentenced to six months in prison after pleading guilty to manufacturing evidence in two unrelated cases.