Trials of those arrested in Operation JAWbreaker are underway in Macon County and will continue in the months to come.
Several of the 25 suspects nabbed back in April 2018 have seen their day in court.
Last week Leslie Anne Jones, 35, of Otto, NC, entered a guilty plea to one count of Conspiracy to Traffic in Heroin. She will serve a minimum of 70 months in the Division of Adult Corrections and was assessed a $50,000 fine due to her direct involvement in the negotiation and movement of trafficking amounts of heroin into Macon County.
Austin Henry Posey, 24, of Franklin, NC, entered a guilty plea to one count of Attempted Trafficking in Heroin. He was sentenced to a minimum of 19 months and placed on supervised probation which included an active jail sentence of 120 days, his primary role being a driver of more culpable parties.
Christy Teague Hurst, 41, of Franklin, NC, entered a guilty plea to one count of Attempted Trafficking in Heroin as well as Possessing a Firearm by Felon. She was sentenced to 38 months minimum and placed on supervised probation which included an active jail sentence of 390 days. Like Posey, her participation in the ongoing enterprise was limited to driving participants in exchange for controlled substances to support her addiction.
These are the second set of convictions stemming from operation JAWbreaker, a joint endeavor of the Macon County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Division and North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations spanning a period of 16 months that included extensive investigation, interviews, surveillance, and digital information collection and monitoring.
Back in April, Jessica Elizabeth Keener, 32, of Franklin, NC, was the first conviction resulting from operation JAWbreaker.
She entered a guilty plea to one count of Trafficking in Heroin arising out of an April 22, 2018 traffic stop and seizure that was the culmination of a months long investigation by the Macon County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Division and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
She was sentenced to a maximum term of 93 months in prison, and will serve at least 70 months before she is eligible for release and must pay a $50,000 fine.
“The conviction of these JAWBreaker defendants is a direct result of the commitment of the Macon County Sheriff’s Office and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to combat drug trafficking in Macon County and Western North Carolina,” said District Attorney Ashley Hornsby Welch. “These pleas are steps ‘up the ladder’ toward the organizers and leaders of the drug trafficking uncovered by Operation JAWBreaker. As the cases draw ever closer to a conclusion, Macon County citizens can rest assured that law enforcement and my office are committed to combating substance abuse in Macon County and all of Western North Carolina.”
During the early morning hours of Thursday, April 26, 2018, officers with the Macon, Jackson and Rabun county sheriff’s offices, NC State Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, 30th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Franklin Police Department and the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration executed search warrants and served arrest warrants on numerous individuals involved in distributing heroin and methamphetamine into our area.
Named “Operation JAWbreaker,” the operation is aimed at dismantling a well-organized criminal enterprise involved in distributing large quantities of meth and heroin – not only in Macon County, but in Western North Carolina and North Georgia as well.
Of those 25 suspects, three were identified as co-conspirators and suppliers living here in the Franklin and Highlands area. The first names of these suspects were the inspiration for Operation JAWbreaker’s name –an acronym for the three individuals whom investigators identified as a main source of Macon County’s heroin and meth supply.
During the gathering of intelligence, investigators discovered that drug purchases and transactions were arranged by James Steele, Arthur Potts, or Wade Ennis (JAW) and that the three men made additional arrangements for those drugs to be transported back to the area for distribution.
The trial dates for Steele, Potts and Ennis were continued until Sept. 16, 2019.
– Submitted, DA Welch Office