A pair of joint law-enforcement task forces made high-profile drug busts in recent weeks.
On Jan. 28, Buncombe and Henderson County sheriff's deputies made the largest narcotics-related cash seizure in Western North Carolina history after a traffic stop on Interstate 26 found 1,083 lbs. of marijuana and $1.1 million in cash in a horse trailer.
Deputies arrested Andrew Curtis Vanover, 62, of Middlesboro, Ky., and Jose Alfrado Flores, 33, of Mission, Texas. Both were charged with trafficking marijuana and maintaining a vehicle for the purpose of distributing a controlled substance. Both are being held in the Buncombe County Jail in lieu of a $1 million bond.
The deputies were part of the two counties' joint Highway Interdiction Team. The marijuana has an estimated street value of $2.5 million.
Lt. Ross Dillingham of the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office refused to reveal whether either man was affiliated with a gang or crime syndicate, as well as whether the drugs were earmarked for local distribution or just passing through on their way to someplace else.
The cash was turned over to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration; the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office will get $400,000 of it back to use for training, equipment and travel, said Dillingham.
Meanwhile, the Buncombe County Anti-Crime Task Force, composed of Asheville and Black Mountain police officers as well as sheriff's deputies, concluding a four-month undercover operation by arresting two Asheville men and seizing marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and firearms.
Searching the men's homes, the task force says it found 14 pounds of marijuana, 7 ounces of cocaine, 1 ounce of methamphetamine, 19 firearms (including one sawed-off shotgun) and approximately $21,000 in cash.
Task force agents arrested Antonio Gonzalez Zamudio, 28, and Daniel Angulo, 25. Zamudio is charged with three counts of trafficking cocaine, trafficking marijuana, possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell and deliver, two counts of of assault on a female and driving charges. Angulo was charged with four counts of trafficking cocaine and one count of conspiring to traffic cocaine. Both are being held in the county jail, Zamudio on an $82,500 bond and Angulo on an $18,000 bond.
Dillingham said the busts are part of local law enforcement's improved strategy and better coordination with other agencies. "We're out there aggressively trying to disrupt drug trafficking," he told Xpress. "I think we're seeing results."