Gang member pleads guilty to heroin charge in Brunswick County is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Lamar McDow
Lamar McDow

Lamar McDow is one of the lucky ones – and not necessarily because his girlfriend won a $188 million Powerball prize and was once able to post his bond.

The 32-year-old Shallotte man was sentenced Wednesday afternoon to up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to a single count of conspiracy to traffic in opium or heroin.

After sentencing by Superior Court Judge Richard Brown, Brunswick County Assistant District Attorney Chris Thomas – who prosecuted the case for the state – noted “a tidal wave” of heroin abuse that has swept across southeastern North Carolina. Just this week, he said, several defendants charged with heroin possession saw their charges dismissed – because they’d died after overdosing on the highly addictive drug.

Thomas said the case against McDow began in July 2014, when the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Vice and Narcotics Unit investigated a conspiracy case involving McDow and other known drug dealers in Brunswick County. The county had seen an “upsurge in heroin importation,” Thomas said, and investigators later received reports that McDow and others were partly “responsible for some of the heroin being drawn into Brunswick County from the northeastern part of this country, in particular New Jersey.”

Sources reported to the sheriff’s office that McDow was planning a trip to New Jersey to acquire a large quantity of heroin, Thomas said. McDow reportedly sold a vehicle to finance the operation.

Detectives, tracking McDow’s cell phone, found that he had traveled from Brunswick County to New Jersey and back in a “short timeframe,” Thomas said. Deputies pursued and, after a chase, eventually stopped a Dodge Challenger in the area of N.C. 74/76 and 421, and found one of McDow’s co-defendants inside. McDow was not in the vehicle, but drug agents later determined McDow had instead taken a plane from New Jersey to Wilmington.

Deputies recovered a bag that had been tossed from the vehicle during the chase. Inside the bag was 8,000 bindles of heroin, stamped with the labels “New World” and “Black Party,” Thomas said.

McDow was not arrested at that time, Thomas said. Later, detectives received further information that McDow was planning to rent another vehicle to make second trip to New Jersey to replenish the heroin supply that was lost.

Drug agents tracked the GPS on the rented vehicle and stopped it as McDow was returning to Brunswick County with a new supply of heroin, Thomas said. During that stop detectives found McDow and another co-defendant in the case, as well as an additional 1,800 bindles of heroin with labels, “Al Capone” and “Lion King,” Thomas said.

McDow – a gang member who was arrested in the case in November 2014 – made no statements to law enforcement, Thomas said. Between the two drug runs to New Jersey, a total of about 63 grams of heroin was seized as a result of the investigation in Brunswick County.

During the course of the case, McDow was out on bond at various times for the charges, Thomas said. McDow, who made headlines after he was arrested in July 2015 with a Shallotte woman who was the winner of a $188 million Powerball prize in Brunswick County, had posted a $6 million bond in August 2015.

“Although this investigation has come to a close with respect to Mr. McDow, it’s just one of many. There are others within this organization…there are still three people, defendants, with cases pending,” Thomas said after the plea.

Thomas said heroin has become more available, cheaper to get and can be used in a variety of ways. The pending heroin possession cases that were dropped this week were against reported addicts who “didn’t make it to court because they couldn’t get the help they needed,” Thomas said.

“McDow brought 9,800 bindles of heroin into Brunswick County. That’s a lot of heroin,” Thomas said. “And we’re hoping this sends a message. However, he is actually the third person that has received a sentence like that, this week. It’s not a war on drug users; it’s a war on drug dealers. And if someone gets caught selling that poison here in Brunswick County, there’s going to be a severe penalty.”

In addition to his 90 to 120-month sentence, McDow was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.

Attorney Roy D. Trest represented McDow in the case.