Heroin worth $125K seized in Sampson; 1 jailed

By Sherry Matthews Editor

January 24, 2014

Heroin with an approximate value of $125,000 was seized and a New Jersey man taken into custody following an I-40 traffic stop near mile marker 350 Thursday afternoon.

The drugs, approximately 5,000 bindles of heroin, was destined for Wilmington, said Sampson Sheriff Jimmy Thornton Friday afternoon, stressing that while the destination was outside of the county, it was likely the drug would have found its way back here through distribution.

“Just because the destination was intended to be Wilmington doesn’t mean some of that heroin wouldn’t have surfaced here at some later point through distribution,” Thornton asserted. “The beauty of this is we were able to get serious drugs off the street, prevent it from going to another county and stop it from getting into the hands of young people.

“We have an excellent interdiction team and great drug agents who do a good job of working these cases. They are trained to know what to spot, and they are out there working it daily.”

It was deputies with the Criminal Interdiction Team that made Thursday’s stop, after noticing a traffic violation and discovering that the vehicle’s registration plate was fictitious.

The driver of the Lexus, Phylicia Renee Jones, 27, of 4605-B Greentree Road, Wilmington, was charged with displaying a fictitious registration plate.

During the stop, officers noting that a search of the vehicle uncovered the 5,000 bindles of heroin, found in a suitcase belonging to the vehicle’s passenger, James L. Townsend.

Townsend, 30, of 141 N. 5th St., Patterson, N.J., was immediately taken into custody and charged with trafficking in heroin by possession, trafficking heroin by transport, trafficking heroin by manufacturing, possession with intent to sell and manufacture/deliver heroin, all felonies and one misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

This is the third heroin arrest along I-40 in as many years. In each case, Thornton said, the drugs were destined for Wilmington.

“After the first seizure, which was a very significant bust, the police chief in Wilmington sent me a note thanking us for stopping the drugs before they got to his city. He was very appreciative of our help, and we were happy that we were able to catch it like we did.”

The sheriff is just as pleased over Thursday’s arrest, noting that any day officers can get drugs off the streets is a good one.

“For a long time, heroin was basically off the radar, but it seems like in the past few years we’ve seen a resurgence. I’m just very proud of the work my guys do … it does make a difference.”

Thornton stressed that criminal activity was always taking place on the interstate, a major reason his CID officers remain vigilant in those areas of Sampson.

“Even if it wasn’t meant for here, dope is dope, and getting it off the street is the goal. If we don’t, it gets into the hands of young people and it destroys families. If we can prevent that, then we are doing what we are supposed to,” the sheriff stressed.

Townsend remained in the Sampson County Detention Center Friday afternoon under a $2 million secured bond. His first appearance in Sampson District Court has been scheduled for Jan. 31.