News and Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

TUESDAY - December 14, 2010

16 DEFENDANTS SENTENCED IN OPERATION FIRE ANTS

WILMINGTON - United States Attorney George E.B. Holding announced that in federal court on December 13 and 14, 2010, Senior United States District Judge James C. Fox sentenced BILLY RAY MILLER, 33, of Beulaville, North Carolina, to 42 months’ imprisonment and VALDO SALDANA GIONA, 34, of Snow Hill, North Carolina to 52 months’ imprisonment.

On June 2, 2010, a Federal Grand Jury returned a Criminal Indictment. On August 2, 2010, both defendants pled guilty to possession with the intent to distribute a quantity of methamphetamine and aiding and abetting each other.

On May 6, 2010, Officers with the Beulaville Police Department working with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation stopped a vehicle being driven by GIONA with MILLER as the passenger. During a search of the vehicle, officers located a quantity of methamphetamine and a .22 caliber rifle. The investigation revealed that both GIONA and MILLER were involved with the Bracamontes drug trafficking organization which was responsible for the importation and distribution of more than 100 kilograms of methamphetamine into Eastern North Carolina since 2005.

This case was brought as a part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Operation entitled Fire Ants, investigating international and national importers and the multi-level distributors of methamphetamine. To date, a total of 16 individuals have pled guilty and been sentenced in Federal Court. Investigation of this case was conducted by the North Carolina States Bureau of Investigations, Bureau Of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATFE), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Lenior County Sheriff’s Office, Duplin County Sheriff’s Office, Beaulaville Police Department, Pender County Sheriff’s Department, New Hanover Sheriff’s Office, Onslow County Sheriff’s Department, Wilmington Police Department, and the North Carolina Department of Community Corrections. Special Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Severo and Assistant United States Attorney Brian Meyers represented the government.Mr. Severo is a prosecutor with the New Hanover District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Ben David has assigned him to the United States Attorney’s Office to prosecute federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force criminal matters. This has been made possible by a grant funded by the Governor’s Crime Commission and the New Hanover County Commissioners.

News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.

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