WILMINGTON — It sounds like something out of the movies: a gang member and his crew find out about a stash house full of cocaine guarded by the Mexican cartel and plan on robbing it — only to realize too late that it was an elaborate setup by the feds. But it’s not a Hollywood plot, in fact, it’s exactly how a Wilmington gang member ended up being sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “Joseph Anthony Vaught, a 29-year-old from Wilmington conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.”
He was the last of six men to be charged in a case that had been ongoing since 2016.
“Beginning in December 2016 and continuing until the federal indictment in August of 2017, ATF used a confidential informant, undercover agents, and a wired undercover apartment to investigate gang and drug activity in the Wilmington, North Carolina area. Victor Dorm, a principal target of the investigation, was a leader of a subset of the Bloods street gang,” according to the DOJ press release.
A confidential informant, along with undercover agents, made dozens of purchases of cocaine, heroin, firearms, and counterfeit currency when they learned Dorm and his gang were conducting violent robberies — so the feds created a plan to catch them in the act.
“The ATF devised a scenario where Dorm and his crew were provided the opportunity to rob a fictitious cocaine stash house. Dorm was told that a Mexican drug cartel operated the stash house, where two armed men guarded eight to ten kilograms of cocaine. Dorm confirmed that his crew, including Vaught, was ready to commit the robbery,” according to DOJ.
In August of 2017, the crew was ready to put their heist into motion and drove to a location to meet with undercover agents who supposedly had “access to the stash house.”
“Both Vaught and Hooper were armed with handguns and reaffirmed that they wanted to rob the stash house. From there, Vaught and Hooper (one of the five others involved in the case) followed the undercover agents to a separate location, where they believed the agents would obtain additional cocaine to be delivered to the stash house. Instead, a team of federal agents executed a take-down, arresting the two men and seizing their firearms,” according to the release.
The investigation of this case was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the Wilmington Police Department, the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, and the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office.