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On Wednesday, April 14, agents with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Drug Enforcement Unit arrested a brother and sister for allegedly operating a prescription pill trafficking operation.
After a one-day investigation brought on by community complaints, drug agents secured a search warrant for a home at 7013 Pine Cliff Drive in Leland, Sgt. Steve Lanier said.
When drug agents searched the home, they found more than 1,600 prescription pills, marijuana, surveillance equipment, night vision goggles, two rifles, drug paraphernalia and nearly $1,000 in cash, Sgt. Israel West said.
The prescription pills, which included Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Roxycodone, Methadone and Alprazolam packaged and bottled for sale, have an estimated street value of more than $30,000.
Ronald Reaves, 50, of 7013 Pine Cliff Drive, Leland, was charged with one count of trafficking opium and one count of possession with intent to manufacture, sell and deliver marijuana. Reaves was taken to the Brunswick County Detention Center, where he was placed on a $750,000 secured bond.
Reaves’ sister, Wendy Melton, 44, of 9526 Jennifer St., Leland, was charged with conspire to traffic opium. Melton was taken to the detention center, where she was placed on a $750,000 unsecured bond.
Though Reaves was charged with trafficking opium and Melton was charged with conspiring to traffic, they both face up to 279 months in the North Carolina Department of Corrections if convicted because conspiring to traffic opium carries the same sentence of the principle act of trafficking, West said.
‘Wild west of pill diversion’
West described the drug enforcement unit’s investigation leading to the two arrests as “really fast and unusual.”
Drug agents found Reaves was purchasing prescription pills in North Carolina and Florida, which West described as “the wild west of pill diversion.”
West said Reaves was purchasing prescription pills at pain management clinics in Florida, or, as West described the clinics, “pill mills,” trafficking them back to North Carolina, and then selling them. Reaves had been to Florida at least three times since January, visiting at least five different doctors, West said.
Drug agents found Reaves had prescription pills prescribed to himself, Melton and numerous other people, with evidence leading drug agents to believe both he and Melton were traveling to Florida to “conspire to receive large amounts of prescription medications from Florida.”
The reason Florida is a target for prescription pill diversion, West said, is the state has no monitoring system in place for people filling multiple prescriptions.
“The reason they’re going to Florida is because it’s difficult here,” Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram said. “North Carolina is making an effort to try to divert this problem.”