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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Friday - April 23, 2004

KINSTON - At a news conference in Kinston, N. C., on Friday, April 23, 2004, federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities announced the results of "OPERATION EAGLECLAW," an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation involving drug trafficking in the Kinston/Lenoir County area of North Carolina.

"OPERATION EAGLECLAW," which began in early 2002, is a cooperative effort to prosecute and convict individuals federally who have been a continuing problem for the Kinston Department of Public Safety and the Lenoir County Sheriff's Office. The goals of this two-year investigation were to dismantle a major drug trafficking organization operating in the area and to seize and forfeit all drug related assets.

Most of the organization's members live in the City of Kinston or in surrounding Lenoir County, and they have been actively distributing multiple kilogram quantities of crack cocaine and powder cocaine in the area for several years. Some members of the drug organization have been convicted previously on state drug, violence, or firearm violations. To date, 17 defendants have been charged in federal cases, and 14 defendants will be prosecuted for drug and firearm offenses in state court as a result of "OPERATION EAGLECLAW." The federal cases are detailed on the attached list. (Details regarding the state cases are not available at this time.)

The "OPERATION EAGLECLAW" investigation was conducted by the Narcotics Unit, the SWAT Team, and the Special Operations Unit of the Kinston Department of Public Safety; the Lenoir County Sheriff's Office; the Greenville Office of the N. C. State Bureau of Investigation; the District Attorney's Office of Lenoir County; the Raleigh Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration; and the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Assistant U. S. Attorney Ethan A. Ontjes and Special Assistant U. S. Attorney Imelda J. Pate are prosecuting the cases for the government. Ms. Pate also serves as an Assistant District Attorney on the staff of District Attorney C. B. (Branny) Vickory III in Lenoir County.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Each defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.



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