Sheriff’s investigators in Orange and Durham counties charged two men this week with distributing cocaine laced with fentanyl, according to a news release Friday.
Craig Everette Whitted, 64, of Hillsborough, was charged Tuesday two counts of trafficking in opium or heroin; two counts of possession with intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver heroin; maintaining a vehicle for a controlled substance; and possession of drug paraphernalia, Orange County Sheriff’s officials said in the release.
He was being held in the Orange County Detention Center under a $25,000 secured bond.
Investigators also charged George Lewis Mangum, 46, of Rougemont, with trafficking in cocaine, maintaining a dwelling for a controlled substance, and possession with intent to manufacture, sell, and deliver cocaine, the release said. Mangum was being held in the Durham County Detention Center under a $30,000 secured bond.
Orange and Durham investigators have been working with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration since June to arrest the two men, after suspecting Whitted of getting drugs from a Rougemont home, located in Durham County, the release said.
Investigators seized “trafficking amounts of cocaine laced with fentanyl” while serving warrants on both men Tuesday, it said. They also seized multiple guns and other items related to drug trafficking, it said.
The multi-agency operation was key to the arrests, Durham County Sheriff Clarence F. Birkhead said in the release.
“Sheriff Blackwood’s investigators and mine work together regularly,” he said. “When asked to assist with this investigation, we were happy to provide any assistance we could.”
Chapel Hill drug arrests
The arrests came just over a month after two men were arrested in a Chapel Hill parking lot and also charged with trafficking in fentanyl-laced cocaine.
Orange County investigators worked with Chapel Hill police to charge Sergio Aguiar, 36, of Winston-Salem, in that case with possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture, sell and deliver fentanyl; sale and delivery of fentanyl; and three counts of trafficking in opium or heroin, according to a release.
Investigators also charged Octavio Lopez, 31, of Raleigh with maintaining a vehicle or dwelling place for the sale of controlled substances; two counts of trafficking in opium or heroin; and two counts of misdemeanor child abuse, the release said.
Two young children present during the arrest were unharmed and released to their mother, officials said.
NC rising overdoses, laws changed
A growing number of suspected overdose deaths have been linked to drugs laced with fentanyl, which first was laced with heroin when it appeared in North Carolina.
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services data released in August showed the number of suspected overdose deaths involving fentanyl grew from 442 in 2016 to 3,355 in 2022.
This year, the number of fentanyl-positive overdose deaths reached 1,704 by June 30, compared to 1,675 deaths by June 2022. Cocaine was involved in roughly 41% of the fentanyl-positive deaths in the first six months of 2023, data showed.
“Obviously, the sale and distribution of illicit drugs goes on across county borders,” Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood said in Friday’s release. “Multi-agency investigations serve as force-multipliers, allowing us to work what started as an investigation into street-level sales back to a source of supply.”
North Carolina has had a “death by distribution” law since 2019 in response to the rising number of opioid-related deaths. The law makes it a felony to sell drugs to buyers who die from an overdose after taking those drugs.
N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill into law on Sept. 28 that increases the fines for trafficking in fentanyl and other opioids, and the penalties for selling drugs to buyers who suffer a fatal overdose.
The law also expands the state’s Good Samaritan law that gives people with some immunity from prosecution if they call 911 when someone is overdosing.