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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of North Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 5, 2020

Wilmington Man Receives 96 Months in Federal Prison for Drug Offenses

RALEIGH – United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. announced that yesterday in federal court, Chief United States District Judge Terrence W. Boyle sentenced JAMES EARL RUTLAND III, 34, of Wilmington, North Carolina, to 96 months imprisonment, followed by 3 years of supervised release and a $100 special assessment. 

RUTLAND was named in an Indictment filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina on May 31, 2019, charging him with possession with intent to distribute a quantity of heroin on July 20, 2018, possession with intent to distribute a quantity of heroin, a quantity of fentanyl and a quantity of tramadol, on October 29, 2018, and possession with the intent to distribute a quantity of cocaine and a quantity of heroin on January 23, 2019.  On December 11, 2019, RUTLAND pled guilty to count three of the Indictment charging possession with intent to distribute a quantity of cocaine and a quantity of heroin on January 23, 2019. 

According to the investigation, on July 20, 2018, following a controlled purchase of heroin from RUTLAND, the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant on RUTLAND’s hotel room.  Officers found multiple bags of a mixture of heroin and fentanyl in the hotel room and 9mm ammunition in RUTLAND’s car.  On October 29, 2018, law enforcement officers were notified by a confidential source that RUTLAND was “selling dope”.  Law enforcement officers approached and searched RUTLAND and recovered 79 bindles of a heroin, fentanyl and tramadol mixture.  Finally, on January 23, 2019, officers with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office conducted a controlled purchase of heroin from RUTLAND using a confidential informant and subsequently recovered additional bags of heroin and cocaine hidden by RUTLAND in a Wilmington mini-mart in the area of the controlled purchase.  RUTLAND has an extensive history of narcotics related convictions and offenses in New Hanover County. 

This case is part of the FBI Investigation Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Operation “Dodgeball” with cooperation from the ATF, Wilmington Police Department and New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.  This operation is focused on a drug trafficking organization operating in the New Hanover County area of North Carolina.

This case is also part of the Take Back North Carolina Initiative of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.  This initiative emphasizes the regional assignment of federal prosecutors to work with law enforcement and District Attorney’s Offices on a sustained basis in those communities to reduce the violent crime rate, drug trafficking, and crimes against law enforcement.

The FBI, ATF, Wilmington Police Department and New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation of this case.  Special Assistant United States Attorney Murphy Averitt prosecuted the case on behalf of the government.  Mr. Averitt is a prosecutor with the Prosecutorial District 6 District Attorney’s Office encompassing New Hanover County.  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. 

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The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Updated March 5, 2020