Skip to main content
Press Release

Wilkesboro Woman Sentenced to Prison for Conspiracy Drug Trafficking after Multi-State Operation

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

GREENSBORO – A North Carolina woman was sentenced today to 15 years in prison, after pleading guilty to a one-count indictment which charged her and six codefendants with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute quantities of methamphetamine. The case was part of a multi-state organized crime investigation, announced United States Attorney Sandra J. Hairston of the Middle District of North Carolina. 

WHITNEY LEIGH ESTEP, age 32, of Wilkesboro, North Carolina, was sentenced to a 180-month term of imprisonment by the Honorable William L. Osteen, Jr., United States District Judge in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.  In addition to prison time, ESTEP was ordered to serve three years of supervised release.  She pleaded guilty on August 26, 2022, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, a violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 846 and 841(b)(1)(C). 

According to court records, ESTEP and six additional defendants were indicted in June 2022 after an investigation involving multiple law enforcement agencies revealed a multi-state organized crime conspiracy. Beginning in 2020, law enforcement agencies from several states began investigating a drug trafficking organization rooted in Mexico.  During the investigation, it was revealed that ESTEP was sent by a member of the organization to obtain cocaine and deliver it to other individuals in the organization.  In March of 2022, task force officers visited ESTEP’s home which was the location of multiple methamphetamine deals prosecuted in another case. ESTEP admitted to officers that she had been working with others for a year and a half, transporting money and providing marijuana in return. The money picked up and delivered by ESTEP was then sent to the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico, and ESTEP admitted to investigators that she knew the money was involved in the trafficking of drugs.  ESTEP believed she had transferred tens of thousands of dollars, and investigators later confirmed that ESEP had wired funds to Mexico.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, and multiple sheriff’s offices and police departments across North Carolina.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jake D. Pryor.  


Updated March 13, 2023