Just days after appearing in Superior Court in Macon County for drug charges stemming from the April 2018 “Operation JAWbreaker” arrest, James Steele was arrested and charged with felony possession of heroin and misdemeanor drug paraphernalia.
Operation JAWbreaker was named for three men suspected to be leading a major drug ring that was the target of more than a year of undercover work in early 2018. James Steele, Arthur Potts, and Wade Ennis. 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.
More than 25 people were arrested as part of the operation, with some of the lower-level players already being convicted in court. Steele, Potts, and Ennis currently still have their cases pending in Superior Court Administrative Court.
Last week, deputies with the Macon County Sheriff’s Office observed Steele traveling at a high rate of speed along the Highlands Road and initiated a traffic stop. Steele denied consent to search the vehicle he was driving, which was registered to Ennis. Macon County Sheriff Deputy Jonathan Bean made the traffic stop and after being denied consent to search the vehicle, called for additional officers. Macon County Sheriff K9 Officer Deputy Nick Lofthouse ran his K9 partner Diesel around the vehicle and received a positive alert. After further investigation, deputies discovered a small amount of heroin in the vehicle. Steele was then arrested and booked into the Macon County Detention Center on a $6,600 bond.
During the gathering of intelligence for Operation JAWbreaker, investigators discovered that drug purchases and transactions were arranged by James Steele, Arthur Potts, or Wade Ennis and that the three men made additional arrangements for those drugs to be transported back to this area for distribution. During the operation, investigators were able to identify the three suppliers of heroin and meth in the Atlanta area. In collaboration with local, state and federal partners, investigators and law enforcement were able to intercept various shipments of heroin and meth during traffic stops as they were headed back to Macon County.
It is also believed that individuals arrested as part of Operation JAWbreaker were responsible for the 2017 death of a former Franklin High School student who was found dead in a hotel room in Atlanta after an apparent overdose.
When Steele was first arrested for JAWbreaker, he was charged with a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to traffic opium/heroin, trafficking opium/heroin, possession of heroin, and delivering heroin X2, and possession of a controlled substance on jail premises.
At the time of that arrest in 2018, Steele was out on bond awaiting trial for 2017 charges of felony possession of firearm by felon, felony possession with intent to manufacture sell and deliver methamphetamine, and possession with intent to manufacture sell and deliver heroin.
The 2018 JAWbreaker arrests resulted in a $1.3 million bond, which Steele was able to post with the help of a bond bailsman. As a condition of his bond, the bondsman required Steele to wear an ankle monitor, which he was wearing at the time of his arrest last week.
Steele is not the only member of JAWbreaker who has picked up additional charges. Potts was recently arrested after breaking into a home in Highlands.
Potts was arrested and charged with two counts of felony breaking and entering, two counts of felony larceny after breaking and entering and other misdemeanor charges.
He also still has the 2018 JAWbreaker charges for felony aid and abetting continuing criminal enterprise, felony to conspire to traffic opium/heroin, and felony possession with intent to manufacture sell and deliver heroin. Like Steele, Potts also has charges pending that predate the JAWbreaker crimes.
Steele is awaiting trial for misdemeanor assault on a government official and felony possession of meth – charges which occurred in 2017.
Potts also has a felony larceny from a construction site and felony possession of stolen property from a construction site pending in Superior Court – charges that he obtained in 2016.
“This will not be the last time we deal with any of these individuals previously named,” said Sheriff Robert Holland. “We will not stop until swift justice is served on any individual who is taking part in putting poison into our community, addict or not. If you are selling to others to feed your own habit, then to us and to the families of those lives you are destroying you are a menace to our society, and we will treat you as such. It’s not because of a lack of effort on our part that these people continue to walk amongst our community. We need tougher laws and stiffer penalties which I believe will encourage addicts to seek help.”
Steele, Potts, and Ennis are all scheduled to appear back in Superior Court in Macon County on November 18 for the Operation JAWbreaker arrests. Steele’s first district court appearance on his new charges are scheduled for October 8. Potts’ newest charges are schedule to be heard in district court on November 12.
Read previous article on JAWbreaker HERE.
By Brittney Lofthouse