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Press Release

Brunswick County Heroin and Fentanyl Dealer Sentenced to 25 Years After Conviction in Federal Jury Trial

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of North Carolina

NEW BERN, N.C. – A Leland man was sentenced today to 300 months in prison for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, forty grams or more of fentanyl, and a quantity of cocaine, and five counts of distributing heroin and fentanyl.  On February 17, 2022, a federal jury found Benne Lee James guilty of all charges.

“Working together with law enforcement, we are working to investigate and prosecute those that are bringing illegal drugs into our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Easley. “This defendant will trade his time dealing drugs for time behind bars.”

According to court documents and other information presented in court, James, 44, sold heroin laced with fentanyl in the Leland area of Brunswick County on at least five occasions from May to August 2018.  During the course of the investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) learned that James had trafficked more than sixteen kilograms of a mixture of heroin and fentanyl from New York in or around November 2016, through August 2018.  James and his co-defendant, Alexander Mootoo, had a source of supply in New York to buy bulk amounts of heroin and fentanyl, and then used a courier to bring the drugs on commercial buses to eastern North Carolina.  Once the drugs arrived, James used several properties to store the drugs until it was packaged for sale in the Brunswick and New Hanover County areas.  James maintained a network of at least 11 individuals who sold heroin for him, many selling for him on a weekly basis.  James also trafficked and sold cocaine on occasion.  He has a lengthy criminal history dating back to the mid-1990’s, including common law robbery, possession with intent to sell or deliver heroin, and possession of marijuana.

On March 29, 2022, Mootoo was sentenced to 38 months imprisonment for his role in the offense. 

Michael Easley, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Louise W. Flanagan. This investigation was led by the Wilmington Safe Streets Task Force which includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), the Wilmington Police Department and the Brunswick Count Sheriff’s Office, and the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Dodson prosecuted the case.

Related court documents and information can be found on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina or on PACER by searching for Case No. 7:20-CR-79-1FL.


Updated July 29, 2022

Drug Trafficking