Saturday, April 20, 2024

Operation Tooth Fairy shuts down narcotics pipeline from New Jersey

The operation took on the name because of the suspects' name -- the Sweet brothers.

Chief Ralph Evangelous spoke during the conclusion of Operation Tooth Fairy (Port City Daily/Mark Darrough)
Chief Ralph Evangelous spoke during the conclusion of Operation Tooth Fairy. (Port City Daily/Mark Darrough)

WILMINGTON — Eight men are behind bars and thousands of doses of heroin, fentanyl, and other narcotics are off the streets after “Operation Tooth Fairy” — a joint local, state, and federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force operation.

Operation Toothfairy took place over several years and took place throughout the region as drug dealers moved narcotics across state lines mostly from New York and New Jersey, according to U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon Jr.

On Thursday, members from multiple different agencies, as well as Higdon and other prosecutors, hosted a media event signifying the conclusion of Operation Tooth Fairy.

In 2016 a joint investigation between the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force and the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office Vice Division led to the arrests of Deandre Sweet, Kyeric Sweet, and Diquelle Sweet.

Andrew Lige was revealed to be the source of drugs for the Sweet brothers.

Another incident in 2016 led Duplin County Sheriff’s deputies on a highspeed chase after trying to stop Andrew Jerome Lige. During that chase Kevin Simpkins, the passenger in the car threw out a bag with more than 9,800 bags of heroin — more than 130 grams.

That investigation led police to discover Lige had been making regular trips to New Jersey to acquire heroin to distribute in North Carolina.

In 2017, Lige was the victim of a home invasion robbery where he was shot in the leg, he eventually had to have that leg amputated.

Higdon admitted that, while the operation was a success in shutting down several drug dealers and getting a large amount of drugs off the street, he was not under any illusion that the heroin problem was solved.

Charges and convictions

All those arrested and charged in the operation include:

  • SHAWQI GRAY, 37, of Wilmington, NC. GRAY was sentenced to 204 months’ imprisonment in February 2019. GRAY pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute one hundred (100) grams or more of heroin and a quantity of fentanyl, possession with intent to distribute one hundred (100) grams and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.

    ANDREW JEROME LIGE, also known as “Shotgun,” 40, of Wilmington, NC. LIGE was sentenced to 132 months’ imprisonment on January 9, 2019. LIGE pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute one hundred (100) grams or more of heroin and possess with the intent to distribute one hundred (100) grams or more of heroin.

    KEVIN SIMPKINS, 50, of Wilmington, NC. SIMPKINS was sentenced to 132 months’ imprisonment. SIMPKINS pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute one hundred (100) grams or more of heroin and possess with the intent to distribute one hundred (100) grams or more of heroin.

    DEANDRE SWEET, 27, of Wilmington, NC. SWEET was sentenced to 105 months’ imprisonment in October 2018. SWEET pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a quantity of heroin and possess with intent to distribute a quantity of heroin.

    DIQUELLE SWEET, 22, of Wilmington NC, SWEET was sentenced to 105 months imprisonment in September 2018. SWEET pled guilty to 5 counts of distribution of a quantity of heroin and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

    KYERIC SWEET, 25, of Wilmington, NC. SWEET was sentenced to 90 months’ imprisonment on October 2018. SWEET pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute a quantity of heroin.

    TEREK HARPER, also known as “Reek,” 34, of New Jersey. HARPER pled guilty to conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute a 100 grams or more of heroin and possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin. HARPER was sentenced to 87 months’ imprisonment on April 1, 2019. HARPER is awaiting sentencing in North Carolina State Court and faces a mandatory five minimum active sentence to be served following the expiration of his federal sentence.

    TONY SIMS, 52, of Wilmington, NC. SIMS was sentenced to 48 months’ imprisonment on January 25, 2019. SIMS pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute a quantity of heroin and possession with the intent to distribute a quantity of heroin


Related Articles