FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
THURSDAY - February 11, 2010
Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF)
Operation: Northern Star
RALEIGH - Today, United States Attorney George E.B. Holding announced the conclusion of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Operation: Northern Star. Northern Star is a multi-agency local, state, and federal joint investigation which targeted the JULIAN AVILEZ drug trafficking organization (DTO) and the upper-level drug traffickers which his organization supplied.
In 2006, the Goldsboro-Wayne County Drug Squad and the Drug Enforcement Administration began investigating the illegal activities of JULIAN AVILEZ. As his organization's structure was determined and specific targets identified, the investigation was quickly designated as an OCDETF investigation - bringing with it the full resources of the federal government to prosecute and dismantle this group.
The AVILEZ organization operated primarily out of Goldsboro, North Carolina, as well as the Wayne and Sampson County areas. AVILEZ used the "Tienda Avilez" convenience store, which he operated in Newton Grove, as a base for his narcotics trafficking. The organization was responsible for importing, distributing, and supplying hundreds of kilograms of powder cocaine and other illegal narcotics throughout eastern North Carolina.
At the height of his cocaine trafficking, AVILEZ facilitated the monthly importation of 20-30 kilogram cocaine shipments directly from Mexico by a Mexican drug cartel. This extensive conspiracy to distribute cocaine extended outside of North Carolina to include South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and California.
The subsequent financial investigation revealed that over $1 million worth of monetary proceeds from these illegal activities were laundered through various bank accounts and through the "Tienda Avilez." Much of the money was transferred to Mexico and California via domestic and international wire transfer services.
This operation has yielded the federal indictment and conviction of 26 major drug traffickers in and around Wayne County. These defendants were charged with a variety of crimes, including: conspiracy to distribute cocaine, cocaine base (crack), marijuana, and methamphetamine; distribution of cocaine, cocaine base (crack), marijuana, and methamphetamine; domestic and international money laundering; illegal possession of firearms; and other violations of federal law.
All defendants, but two, have been sentenced and received significant federal sentences for the crimes they committed, ranging from 60 months to 292 months imprisonment. Twelve of these defendants have received sentences of 10 years or more in federal prison. JULIAN AVILEZ was sentenced to 188 months imprisonment for his criminal activity. His Mexican cartel source of supply received a sentence of 292 months imprisonment.
Additionally, several other defendants prosecuted under this investigation received federal sentences in excess of 15 years imprisonment. RICO MOSES, a major distributor of crack cocaine in Goldsboro, received a sentence of 243 months imprisonment. ANTWON DEMETRIUS PEACOCK pled guilty to a conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base (crack) and possession of a firearm in furtherance of that crime and is currently serving a 205 month sentence for his distribution of several hundred grams of crack cocaine in the Goldsboro area.
Over the course of this operation, law enforcement seized 14 firearms, 11 kilograms of cocaine, 2 kilograms of crack cocaine, and over $1 million in U.S. currency. In addition, over $600,000 worth of real and personal property was seized and/or forfeited by defendants.
Mr. Holding commented, “One of the most significant weapons against drug trafficking that law enforcement has is the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. Such an investigation is a joint operation that includes all levels of law enforcement--working together as a team. This investigation is an example of the success that can be had by a cooperative effort toward a common goal of defeating narcotics traffickers.”
Rodney G. Benson, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division commented, “All participating agencies played a crucial role in the eradication of this drug distribution network, which made this case a success. This organization'sdrug trafficking activities posed a significant threat to the quality of life within a number of communities. The dismantling of thiscriminal enterprisemakes these communities a safer place today.”
“This press conference highlights what occurs when law enforcement agencies co-ordinate their efforts. IRS-Criminal Investigation will continue to provide financial expertise to these joint investigations because Money Laundering is found in virtually all crimes for profit. Everyone benefits when we work together,” stated Special Agent in Charge IRS-CI, Jeannine A. Hammett.
OCDETF Operation: Northern Star was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration - Raleigh Office, Wayne County Sheriff's Office, Goldsboro Police Department, Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, Mount Olive Police Department, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Raleigh, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives - Wilmington. Special Assistant United States Attorney Imelda J. Pate and Assistant United States Attorney Brian S. Meyers represented the Government in this case. Ms. Pate is an Assistant District Attorney who prosecutes cases arising out of Lenoir, Wayne, and Greene Counties. District Attorney C. Branson Vickory has assigned her to the United States Attorney's Office to prosecute federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force criminal matters.
News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.