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ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Jose Chavez and Ely Ramirez-Sanchez were arrested on Friday, March 7, 2014 in Buncombe County and face drug trafficking charges in connection with the seizure of approximately 1,400 pounds of marijuana, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
A criminal complaint filed today in U.S. District Court in Asheville charges Jose Chavez, 31, of Candler, N.C. and Ely Ramirez-Sanchez, 28, of Canton, N.C. with one count of possession with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana.
According to court records and allegations contained in filed court documents:
Law enforcement officers were alerted to the pair’s drug trafficking activities in connection with a drug trafficking investigation conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and its task force members. On Friday, March 7, 2014, law enforcement conducted a traffic stop of Ramirez-Sanchez’s vehicle and seized approximately 40 pounds of marijuana contained in a cardboard box located on the back seat of the car. Later that day, while executing a search warrant at Chavez’s mobile home residence, law enforcement seized two large black trash bags filled with marijuana, three digital scales, plastic wrapping material, and a handgun with an obliterated serial number. Law enforcement also seized 15 cardboard boxes containing 23 blocks of marijuana from a pull-behind box trailer, and 27 cardboard boxes containing 111 blocks of marijuana stored in a small rental truck, both located on the property. The total weight of marijuana seized from Chavez’s residence was approximately 1,400 pounds, with an estimated street value between $840,000 and $1,820,000.
The defendants are currently in federal custody and will be arraigned on the federal charges on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, in Asheville before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Howell. The possession with intent to distribute charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 5 years in prison, a maximum potential penalty of 40 years in prison, and a $10,000,000 fine.
The charges contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
U.S. Attorney Tompkins credited the DEA under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Harry S. Sommers and the DEA task force members for their work leading to the arrests and drug seizures. The DEA task force is made up of local law enforcement agencies, including the Asheville Police Department, the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office, the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, all of which provided assistance in the investigation of this case.
U.S. Attorney Tompkins also thanked the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brock D. Nicholson, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, under the direction of Colonel William J. Grey, and the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement under the direction of Director B.W. Collier for their invaluable assistance in this investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Kent, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville.