Local News

Task force takes down cocaine cartel in Newton Grove

Posted February 11, 2010 2:21 p.m. EST
Updated February 11, 2010 4:16 p.m. EST

— U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding announced Thursday the conclusion of an investigation in Wayne and Sampson counties that resulted in the convictions of 26 people believed to have been members of a Mexican drug cartel operating in eastern North Carolina.

The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force’s Operation Northern Star targeted the Julian Avilez drug trafficking organization, which Holding said operated out of a Newton Grove convenience store.

Avilez used the store as his base of operations to import up to 30 kilograms of cocaine per month from Mexico, to distribute it throughout the southeastern United States and to launder money from the sales, Holding said.

The 26 defendants were charged with crimes including conspiracy to distribute cocaine, cocaine base (crack), marijuana, and methamphetamine; distribution of cocaine, cocaine base (crack), marijuana, and methamphetamine; domestic and international money laundering; and illegal possession of firearms.

The ringleader, Avilez, was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison. All but two of those convicted have been sentenced, Holding said, to terms ranging from 60 to 292 months.

The task force seized 14 firearms, 11 kilograms of cocaine, 2 kilograms of crack cocaine and more than $1 million in cash during the course of the three-year investigation, he said.