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Over 2,300 pounds of marijuana hidden in false wall of tractor-trailer

May 2, 2012

Little Rock - Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, announced that a federal jury returned guilty verdicts May 1, 2012, against Eric Lee Carter, age 29, of Tucson, Arizona, on a two count indictment charging conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. Carter was taken into the custody of the U.S. Marshal after the verdict. Sentencing will be set by the Court at a later date. He faces a possible sentence of not less than ten (10) years and not more than life imprisonment and/or up to a $4,000,000 fine, not less than five (5) years supervised release.

“This verdict sends a strong statement regarding the commitment of law enforcement to coordinate their resources across Arkansas and throughout the country to target and prosecute those involved in drug trafficking organizations,” stated Thyer. “We depend on High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) partnerships to help bring about successful prosecutions such as this 2,000 pound marijuana case.”

The charges were the result of the discovery of over 2,300 pounds of marijuana concealed in a false wall in a tractor-trailer during a May 2009 traffic stop of Carter and Christopher Paul Dercola, age 32, of Douglasville, Georgia, by Arkansas State Police (ASP). The ASP Trooper stopped the tractor trailer for speeding on I-40 in Lonoke County, Arkansas. The Trooper became suspicious when the information provided by Carter and Dercola was inconsistent. The Trooper requested and received consent to search and noticed that there was no seal on the trailer which is usually applied to ensure that the contents are not tampered with. He also noticed that the front wall appeared to be newer plywood with new screws and silicone. The Trooper then used his range finder to determine that the trailer was 53 feet long, but that the inside of the trailer only measured 49 feet long, indicating a false wall. He drilled the wall and saw the bundles of marijuana. There were 106 bundles of marijuana recovered.

According to testimony at trial, Dercola stated he had made 15 to 20 similar trips to deliver drugs. Typically, Dercola would arrange for a legitimate load to be transported along with the drugs in order to have the appropriate paperwork showing he was supposed to be traveling to the east coast. The drugs were loaded in Tucson, Arizona for delivery in the Atlanta, Georgia area. During the investigation, he agreed to a controlled delivery of the marijuana to the other co-conspirators in Georgia. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Arkansas contacted DEA in Georgia and DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office who is a member of HIDTA to assist with the operation. During a controlled delivery of the marijuana, Otis Scriven, age 35, of Covington, Georgia; Henry Works, age 34, of St. Petersburg, Florida; Quanterrious Campbell, age 25 of St. Petersburg, Florida; and Vatrina Lashawn Perry, age 35, of Covington, Georgia were arrested in Lithonia, Georgia.

Co-defendants Dercola, Scriven, Works, and Campbell previously entered guilty pleas to the drug conspiracy and are in custody. Dercola is awaiting sentencing. Scriven, Works, and Campbell each received a sentence of one hundred and twenty (120) months imprisonment with five (5) years of supervised release following their imprisonment. Co-defendant Vatrina Perry pled guilty to a superseding information charging misprison of a felony and was sentenced to three (3) years probation.

The investigation was conducted by the Arkansas State Police, the Drug Enforcement Administration in Arkansas and Georgia, and the DeKalb County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Division of Forensic Sciences.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Stephanie Mazzanti and Benecia Moore.

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Christopher R. Thyer

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