DA: Final co-defendant pleads guilty in multi-state drug trafficking case

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Four people have pleaded guilty to multiple counts of trafficking heroin from New Jersey to North Carolina in New Hanover County Superior Court.

The case stemmed from an arrest in August 2010, when detectives with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office received information that a vehicle from New Jersey was traveling to New Hanover County with heroin, according to a news release from District Attorney Ben David.

Uniformed officers stopped the minivan, which had New Jersey tags, after noticing the front seat passenger matched the description of the person alleged to be trafficking heroin. The four occupants were initially released after officers didn’t find any drugs in the van. But over the next several days, officers secured a search warrant to use X-ray technology to scan the van, which revealed a hidden compartment in the vehicle containing “a large quantity of heroin, a smaller quantity of crack cocaine and a small amount of fresh, unburned marijuana,” David said.

“When the van’s owner and his girlfriend returned to retrieve the vehicle, they were charged with multiple counts of trafficking in heroin and conspiracy to traffic in heroin,” David said. “Both gave full statements to law enforcement and cooperated with the investigation.”

The owner of the van and his girlfriend–whose names are being withheld because of police cooperation in the investigation–received suspended sentences after pleaded guilty to heroin trafficking.

The two other occupants of the van–Ibn Johnson and Kelvin Quinerly–were later found and arrested in New Jersey. They were extradited to North Carolina in September 2013. Johnson pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to traffic in heroin in September 2014. He was sentenced to 55 to 85 months in the North Carolina Department of Corrections.

On Monday, Quinerly, 31, of Newark, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to traffic heroin. He was sentenced to 46 to 74 months in the N.C. Department of Corrections.

“This joint investigation with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol resulted in the seizure of approximately 1,500 dosage units of heroin,” David said. “We will not tolerate traffickers who bring this poison from other states to our community.”