Florence Federal Jury Convicts Meth Dealers
APR 28 -- COLUMBIA, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Walter Wilkins stated today that after an eight-day trial, a federal jury took only an hour to convict David Earl Watts, age 49, of Polkton, North Carolina; Flint Davis Ratliff, age 46, of Chesterfield, South Carolina; and James Barnard Haithcock, age 50, of Blenheim, South Carolina, of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Watts and Ratliff face a mandatory minimum of sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life imprisonment. Haithcock faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years and maximum of 40 years imprisonment. The men will be sentenced by United States District Judge Terry L. Wooten after pre-sentence investigation reports are completed in the case.
Rodney G. Benson, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the DEA Atlanta Field Division (AFD) said of the convictions, “The swift justice in this case exemplifies the clear and present danger that methamphetamine poses to our community. Because of the collective efforts of our local, state and federal law enforcement counterparts, these defendants were brought to justice.”
Evidence presented at the trial established that Watts, Ratliff, and Haithcock were involved in manufacturing methamphetamine since 2002 in Florence, Chesterfield, and Marlboro counties in South Carolina and Anson and Union counties in North Carolina. The three were responsible for teaching more than ten people how to make methamphetamine in clandestine laboratories, and the conspiracy was responsible for most of the meth labs seized in the Pee Dee Region and Anson and Union counties since 2004. Co-conspirators who testified against the three during the trial admitted to stealing anhydrous ammonia tanks from businesses in Florence and numerous farms throughout the Pee Dee region.
Watts’ wife admitted that the group was producing more than 20 ounces of methamphetamine per month. Co-conspirators also testified to that Watts, Ratliff, and Haithcock often carried firearms. Watts’ brother and son were arrested on federal complaints the week prior to the trial for threatening government witnesses and in the case of Watts’ son, for beating up the son of a government witness. Watts has a prior murder conspiracy conviction, which involved a murder-for-hire scheme in Anson County, North Carolina.
The lead investigators on the case were Joe Koenig of the Florence County Sheriff’s Office and DEA Task Force; Chris Page of the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office; and Brian Tice of the Anson County Sheriff’s Office. The Marlboro County and Union County Sheriff’s offices, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the Wadesboro Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations, and the United States Marshal’s Service also assisted in the investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Rose Mary Parham and Buddy Bethea of the Florence office.
Rodney G. Benson, SAC of the DEA AFD, encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.justhinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov. DEA.gov takes you directly to the Diversion Control and Prescription Drugs link.