GREENSBORO — Fifteen defendants from Richmond County pleaded guilty this month to federal methamphetamine charges, according to Ripley Rand, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina.
Rand’s office issued a statement Thursday announcing the pleas, entered between July 6 to 13, related to the defendants’ involvement in the manufacture, distribution and use of meth in the county from 2012 up to March of this year.
Phillip Allen McGee, Thomas Leslie Snead Jr., Tommy Brantley Jenkins, II, and Christopher Jared Jenkins each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, in violation of federal code, according to Rand’s office.
Each faces up to 20 years in prison, up to a $1 million fine, a supervised release term of at least three years and a $100 special assessment.
Tracy Alan McDonald, Robert Allen Beck, Tristan Daniel Visingard, Jeffrey John Hodges, Christopher Scott Loftus, Jason Franklin Jacobs, Alex Baxter Odom, Jr., Nickolas Craig Smith, Nanci Brook Byrd, Cayce Leigh Honeycutt and Taylor Dawn Loftus each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess pseudoephedrine with intent to manufacture methamphetamine.
They also face up to 20 years imprisonment, a fine up to $250,000, a supervised release term of no more than three years, and a $100 special assessment.
The special assessment is a fee that goes to the court and used to defray costs.
Sentencing for the 15 defendants is scheduled for Oct. 29 to 30 and Nov. 12 and 19.
According to Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Kelly Page with the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, 35 individuals have been federally indicted in the past several years since the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and the SBI initiated a federal investigation with Rand’s office.
Tommy and Christopher Jenkins, McDonald, Snead and McGee were arrested in early March following a six-month investigation targeting county meth cooks by the sheriff’s office.
Deputies conducted the sweep — with the help of the SBI and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — serving warrants in Ellerbe and Rockingham.
The Rockingham Police Department assisted in the arrests of Snead and McDonald. Christopher Jenkins and McGee were already in custody on unrelated charges.
“It’s an ongoing process and ongoing battle,” Sheriff James E. Clemmons Jr. said at the time. “And this is the result of (law enforcement’s) dedication and hard work.”
Richmond County has seen an increase in meth-related arrests this year. There were 10 arrests in January alone — eight within the last week of the month — more than doubling the number from the previous year.
The SBI has responded to 20 meth labs in the county so far this year — the second-highest number in the state, behind Johnston County, which was the second-highest last year with 46 labs.
Statistics from 2014 show that Richmond tied with Stanly County for the seventh-highest number of labs: 17. Gaston County led the state with 83 and Onslow County was third with 25.
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.