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14 indicted in 'Operation Nor'Easter'

080218 Operation Nor'Easter
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U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon announces the indictment of 14 suspects on federal drug and weapon charges as a result of law enforcement agencies' recent "Operation Nor'Easter" at a press conference at the Pasquotank County Public Safety Building, Wednesday. Behind Higdon are (l-r) District Attorney Andrew Womble, Edward Gray and Elizabeth City police Chief Eddie Buffaloe Jr.

080218 Operation Nor'Easter
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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Fourteen area residents, including one charged with holding up an Elizabeth City business last fall, are facing either federal drug or weapons charges — or in some cases, both — as a result of an enforcement operation federal prosecutors are calling "Operation Nor'Easter." 

U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon, flanked by District Attorney Andrew Womble and federal, state and local law enforcement officials in Elizabeth City, said Wednesday each of those indicted as a result of the operation is believed to have connections to the United Blood Nation gang, an organization described as violent and believed to have members up and down the East Coast.

A press release from Higdon’s office said Operation Nor’Easter was led by the FBI and involved an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force designed “to focus federal resources on the alarming level of opioid use and the deaths associated with it.”

Half of those indicted as a result of the operation are from Elizabeth City. Two are from Edenton and two others are from Hertford/Perquimans County, while one each are from Grandy, Dare County and Gates County.

According to Hidgon, the list of the indicted includes Nathan Silver, 44, of Elizabeth City, who is accused of holding up the Star One tobacco and wine store and attacking its owner in 2017. Higdon said Silver is charged with robbing a business engaged in interstate commerce and faces up to 20 years in imprisonment if he’s convicted.

The other 13 suspects indicted by federal grand juries include:

* Rasheed Jerome Arnold, 24, of Edenton. Arnold is charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a stolen firearm in connection with the April robbery of a check cashing business in Edenton. If convicted, Arnold faces up to 10 years imprisonment on each count.

* Clarence Chestnutt, 40, of Hertford. Chestnutt is charged with possession of crack cocaine and cocaine as well as participation in a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute the drugs. If convicted, Chestnutt faces not less than five years and up to 40 years imprisonment on each count. Chestnutt is also charged with possession of heroin. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of that offense.

* Mykel Levant Davis, 37, of Elizabeth City. Davis is charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. If convicted, Davis faces up to 10 years imprisonment.

* Shawn Christopher Elliott, 40, of Gates County. Elliott is charged with possession of cocaine and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute the drug. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years imprisonment on each count.

* Elijah Humes, 24, of Elizabeth City. Humes  is charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Humes, who is currently at large, faces up to 10 years imprisonment if convicted.

* Alvin Johnson, also known as "Apple Cake," 41, of Pasquotank County. Johnson is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. If convicted, Johnson faces up to 20 years imprisonment, but because he has a prior felony drug conviction, could face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

* Marvin Johnson, 41, of Elizabeth City. Johnson is charged with distributing heroin and cocaine on two separate occasions. Johnson faces up to 20 years imprisonment on each count if convicted. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said Johnson has a previous conviction for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.

* Devon Lee, also known as "Bubba," 36, of Perquimans County. Lee is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, as well as distribution of cocaine. If convicted, Lee faces up to 20 years imprisonment on each count.

* Glenn Mitchell, 49, of Edenton. Mitchell is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin, as well as possession with intent to distribute the drug. Mitchell faces up to 20 years imprisonment on each charge, but because he has a prior felony drug conviction, he could face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

* Willie Person, 54, of Grandy. Person is charged with three counts of distribution of crack cocaine. If convicted, Person faces up to 20 years imprisonment on each count, but because he has a prior felony drug conviction, he could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Samuel Rawlins, 39, of Elizabeth City. Rawlins is charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Rawlins is facing up to 10 years imprisonment if convicted.

Ross Spruill, 33, of Dare County. Spruill is charged with two counts of possession of both cocaine and crack cocaine and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute the drugs. Because Spruill has prior federal drug conviction, he could face up to 30 years imprisonment if convicted.

* John James Taylor, 37, of Elizabeth City. Taylor is charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin and possession of a firearm in connection with a drug crime. If convicted, Taylor faces up to 20 years imprisonment on the drug charge and an additional five-year consecutive sentence on the firearms charge. Taylor is also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years imprisonment on that charge.

Higdon's announcement of the charges on Wednesday follows a news conference he held in Elizabeth City on April 25, where he said his office was forging a new partnership with state and local law enforcement officials. The purpose of the partnership, Higdon said, is to aggressively investigate and prosecute violent criminals and illegal drug traffickers by bringing them to justice in federal court.

Higdon made clear that Operation Nor’easter is the first step in what he’s described as the “Take Back North Carolina” initiative, the U.S. Justice Department’s commitment to address spiraling violent crime and drug trafficking rates across the nation.

Higdon said his office believes some of those now facing criminal indictment as a result of Operation Nor’easter may be deemed “armed career criminals” based on their criminal history. He noted federal law specifies a mandatory prison sentence of between 15 years to life for convicted felons caught carrying firearms if they have three prior convictions for a violent felony or serious drug offense.

He emphasized Operation Nor’easter is the first of many operations targeting violent and drug criminals that law enforcement agencies plan to conduct in the region. He also emphasized future operations will target the United Blood Nation in particular.

"Those who are engaged in violent crime and drug-trafficking should know that, like these offenders, we are coming for you," Higdon said. "We will prosecute you and we will seek long sentences in order to remove you from our communities. In short, we intend to take North Carolina back."

District Attorney Womble, who attended Wednesday’s press conference, pledged his support to the effort.

"This is the kind of effort that we needed to see from the U.S. Attorney's Office," Womble said. "I'm delighted to be a part of this. I feel very enthusiastic about the results so far."

Elizabeth City police Chief Eddie Buffaloe expressed his appreciation to federal prosecutors, but also noted it’s the role of front-line officers and investigators to make cases against crime suspects that prosecutors can then take to court.

“This is a step in the right direction and there are many more steps to come as it relates to Take Back North Carolina,” Buffaloe said.

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