Local News

Charges dropped after drug bust shown on YouTube

Posted July 22, 2008

— Charges have been dropped in the biggest drug bust in Lee County after video of the crime scene appeared on the Internet.

The drug bust was part of a joint investigation by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. The marijuana was tracked from Mexico to Lee County, where officials said they caught Auturo Elizalde, 27, and Thomas Ayala, 32, with 1,900 pounds of marijuana Jan 25.

An officer with the Sanford Police Department videotaped the bust, and his video turned up on YouTube. The video has been removed from the site, and the officer is no longer with the department. Officials withheld his name.

Investigators, prosecutors and defense attorneys claimed they didn't even know the video existed until word spread that it was online.

“It's my understanding that there were two Sanford police officers who came to the scene and did record part of the crime scene,” Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter said.

Carter said he does not know what the officers were doing there. Federal and state agents were on the scene, he said, and local police were never called.

"I'm upset that this happened,” Carter added.

Elizalde and Ayala were arrested during the bust.

After the defense argued that the video should have been submitted into evidence, all charges but one were dismissed against the two suspects.

Both men were sentenced to probation, and released on time served.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Smorgas_Of_Borg Jul 23, 2008

    That there's some mighty fine police work, Lou.

  • Trublue in Wake County Jul 23, 2008

    *sigh* Sanford, what were you thinking......

  • 1Moms_View Jul 23, 2008

    OldRebel, I agree with your statement, "I support Tracy Carter as Sheriff of Lee County. Kevin Bryant is a professional LEO and there is nothing I can or would say against him."

    I wasn't meaning anything bad towards him. Like many others, I just wanted something different last time. I still support Tracy, but have no bad thoughts about Kevin either.

  • oldrebel Jul 23, 2008

    I support Tracy Carter as Sheriff of Lee County. Kecin Bryant is a professional LEO and there is nothing I can or would say against him. In our adversarial electorial process, people sometimes forget that each person running for a position such as Sheriff (or President for that matter) is honorable as the other and each brings to that position differing values and ideas of how to project that office. I'll suport and vote for Carter in the next election. I do wish we had the same kind of citizen oversight in municipal law enforcement. It would be good to turn the police chief out on their ear every election cycle if they don't perform their office as it should be and fail to keep their troops operating as they should. The way things are now, if you even breathe about police corruption you're branded as not supportive of law enforcement in general which is a total lie. In the past, even wife beaters could drive up to their estranged wife's house in a police car and beat their X down...

  • 1Moms_View Jul 23, 2008

    LCSDajoke, anyone reading your posts on any thread that mentions Lee Co can tell your posts are politically motivated against Carter. Your sour grapes are really obvious. I wanted a change. I went to HS with KB and would have had no problems with him as sheriff, had he not been part of the old regime. Having been under the influence and part of the prior administration, I didn't feel the citizens here would see the change so many of us wanted. Had he not been part of that group for so many years, who's to say what might have happened. But you need to move on...the election is over. Get over it!

    Carter has done a good job so far. You keep trying to downplay anything the LCSD does, but you're wrong.

  • ghwhitaker1_old Jul 23, 2008

    Facts: (1) truck driver, not Ayala & Elizalde (hereinafter defendants), brought the load from Mexico to Lee Co.; (2) defendants drove up shortly after truck arrives in Lee Co. and ask driver "is this the floor tiles we are to unload?"; (3) truck driver & defendants begin to unload truck; (4) no box of tiles were opened by defendants or driver; (5) L.E. rushes in & arrest all; (6) at bond hearing for defendants, lead investigator testifies he has no evidence that defendants had anything to do with transporting load to Lee Co., or that they knew marijuana was contained in boxes of floor tiles. How do you expect prosecution to convict without such evidence???

  • VT1994Hokie Jul 23, 2008

    I just read that someone stated that Sheriff Carter is not a good Sheriff. I beg to differ. I worked with him while I was in education. He is a great person. He has great integrity, honest, forth-coming, and a truly genuine human being.

    He has worked hard to get things right in Lee County. I will bet that his record will stand with the best of the rest. I'm proud to call him my friend.

  • VT1994Hokie Jul 23, 2008

    It is an injustice in my opinion. The Lee County LE worked for a long time on this one. Those that taped it are fired, and should be. But, these people get off scott-free. This law should be changed to say the least.

  • jmflu Jul 23, 2008

    Doesn't it just suck that someone caught dead-to-rights doing something can get off simply because everyone can see they did it??!

    There is just too much red tape when criminals have more rights and protections than victims...

  • deborah1954 Jul 23, 2008

    "I am friends with KB also, but I still felt that Tracy was the better person for the job"

    Of course you think the Tracy Carter is the MAN for the job. There is a difference between being a school security guard and being a Sheriff of a county. Tracy isnt qualified to be Sheriff, that is why he barely won the last election. I can tell you right now that he will be unseated. There are many people in this area that feel he hasnt lived up to his duties. As for the drug bust, Carter, SPD, SBI, FBI all dropped the ball for letting these illegals get off.