Authorities say eastern NC drug gang brought down - - Columbia, South Carolina

Authorities say eastern NC drug gang brought down

(Wilmington, NC) October 6, 2005 - Eastern North Carolina authorities say an organization responsible for the monthly distribution of as much as a thousand pounds of marijuana and 110 pounds of cocaine has been busted.

Officials say more than 50 defendants have been prosecuted and 29 are serving federal prison terms that average 11.5 years as a result of "Operation Maple Leaf." The operation began in March 2003.

The US Attorney for eastern North Carolina estimates the network distributed about 50 kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 lbs. of marijuana a month. Most of those behind bars are of Mexican and Honduras decent, important because of ties south of the border.

Members of the drug ring smuggled narcotics across borders to Houston. The drugs were transported to Duplin County and repackaged for sale, authorities said.

US Attorney Frank Whitney says Maple Hill was one of the main distribution points for the drugs to reach the user. He says the group traded drugs for weapons and bought guns to smuggle back to Honduras. Boxes of cash also were smuggled to Central America.

Pender County Sheriff Carson Smith says between 35 and 40 of the defendants were charged.

Posted 11:47am by Bryce Mursch with AP

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