Canton man faces federal drug charges
ASHEVILLE — A Canton man was arrested Friday on federal drug trafficking charges and could face up to 40 years in prison if convicted.
Ely Ramirez-Sanchez, 28, was arrested along with Candler resident Jose Chavez, 31, in connection with the seizure of about 1,400 pounds of marijuana. Anne Tompkins, U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina announced the arrests Tuesday in a press release.
According to court records, 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, officers conducted a traffic stop of Ramirez-Sanchez's vehicle and seized about 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 and residence, officers 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 about 1,400 pounds with an estimated street value between $840,000 and $1.8 million.
The defendants are currently in federal custody and will be arraigned on the charges Wednesday, March 12 in Asheville before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Howell.
The possession with intent to distribute charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison with a maximum potential penalty of 40 years and a $10 million fine.
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, according to the press release.
The DEA task force is made up of local law enforcement agencies including the Asheville Police Department, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the McDowell, Buncombe, Henderson and Transylvania county sheriff's offices, all of which provided assistance in the investigation.
Tompkins also thanks 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 NC Highway Patrol under the direction of Col. 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.