A Cabarrus County newspaper has reported one of the largest drug busts in years. According to the Independent-Tribune of Concord, two tons of marijuana were seized in April, as part of an FBI investigation into an international drug ring running through the county.
The reporters found search warrants, which usually the FBI would seal during an ongoing investigation. In this case, the reporters found the documents after five arrests in April, before they were sealed. To protect the investigation, but report the story, Independent Tribune reporter Tim Reaves says the paper struck a deal with the FBI.
"We basically agreed with them not to release certain information, in exchange for minimal assistance with the story," Reaves says.
According to the paper, the FBI began investigating in November, when authorities received a tip that a Mexican furniture company named Woodworld was shipping thousands of pounds of marijuana through Concord. The FBI began investigating a man named Cesar Linares, who along with another man—Javier Nava—was ostensibly an employee of Woodworld living in Concord.
In reality, "they were sort of installed by the trafficking organization in Concord, where they awaited orders from a central figure who the FBI asked us not to name," says Reaves.
Reaves says the warrants show Linares rented warehouses for Woodworld trucks. Those trucks would offload boxes of marijuana made to look like they contained furniture. In April, the FBI busted two warehouses it says Linares rented. Inside, they found almost 400 boxes containing more than two tons of the drug.
"Probably if they’ve got two tons seized this is a medium to a larger organization," says Richard Tucker, a 25-year veteran of the Drug Enforcement Administration, who now works for the Drug Education Consulting Group. "I don’t have really any information about this specific seizure, but that’s an organization that seems to be pretty well organized—there’s a lot of logistics involved."
Tucker says, on the street in Charlotte, that much marijuana would sell for about $3 million. Cabarrus County sheriffs say it’s one of the largest busts they can remember.
Reaves says there are indications Concord was being used as a distribution hub for a nationwide network of traffickers. He says the drug trail starts in Texas. It’s near a border area where the Zeyta cartel is known to operate—but there hasn’t been any connection made to a cartel.