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Local Officers Recognized by U.S. Attorney’s Office for Their Outstanding Achievements

U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray announced that 20 law enforcement officers have been selected to receive the U.S. Attorney’s Office Excellence in the Pursuit of Justice award, for their significant contributions to the mission of the Department of Justice, and their commitment to protecting the people of the Western District of North Carolina.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office recognized Capt. Carolynn Johnson, Detective Matt Rollins, Detective Terry Julian with the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, Detective Jason Reid with the Boone Police Department, and Special Agent Nathan Anderson with the NC SBI for their work on United States v. Frank Cromwell.

“Today, we honor 20 brave men and women for their tireless efforts to keep our communities safe, uphold our Nation’s laws, and ensure public safety,” said U.S. Attorney Murray. “I thank each of them for their dedication to the pursuit of justice, and for serving the people of Western North Carolina with fairness, integrity and excellence.”

Six recipients were selected to receive the Outstanding Individual Performance award for their exemplary contributions to cases prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They are:

Clint Bridges, Gastonia Police Department Detective and Task Force Officer with DEA’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Task Force. Detective Bridges serves as the primary case agent in multiple DEA-HIDTA investigations in the Western District of North Carolina, targeting and dismantling high-level narcotics trafficking organizations. In 2019, Detective Bridges was the primary case agent for “Operation Iceberg,” which led to the seizure of more than 40 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, two kilograms of heroin, two kilograms of cocaine, 50 firearms, and $50,000 in cash, and the prosecution of 30 defendants.

Debra L. Harris, Senior Insolvency Specialist with the Internal Revenue Service, is being recognized for her exemplary work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to protect the interests of the United States in the administration of the federal tax laws in the Western District.

Anthony J. Johnson, Detective with the Asheville Police Department, has been selected for his superior investigative work in the case of United States v. Knoke.  Detective Johnson’s exceptional work helped secure a 15-year sentence for a serial child abuser, and led to the identification of over a dozen victims Knoke had abused over a 50-year span. 

Dennis J. Miller, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Detective and Forfeiture Coordinator, was selected for his contribution to the success of dozens of criminal and civil forfeiture prosecutions each year in the Western District. In 2019, Detective Miller was integral to this office’s success in transferring a federally forfeited drug property to Habitat for Humanity.  Detective Miller also volunteered, and solicited volunteers, to physically convert the dilapidated property into a newly constructed Habitat for Humanity home, which was presented to a deserving homeowner and her young daughter.

Jason Brent Reid, Detective with the Boone Police Department and Task Force Officer with Homeland Security Investigations, has been selected for his superior investigative work in U.S. vs Frank Cromwell, a case involving an alleged child predator who is facing federal charges for producing child pornography and victimizing multiple young men. The charges against Cromwell for his alleged conduct are still pending.

Tim Stutheit, Special Agent with the FBI’s Complex Financial Crime Squad, is the recipient of the award for his superior investigative work in cases involving financial fraud. In 2019, Special Agent Stutheit was the lead agent in at least four significant cases, and his thorough work was instrumental in assisting the U.S. Attorney’s Office to successfully prosecute multiple white collar criminals, including defendants who stole money from multiple victims, some of whom were elderly.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also selected two investigative teams to be recognized in the Outstanding Case category, for their exceptional teamwork and collaboration over the course of an investigation. Seven law enforcement officers will be recognized for their collective investigative work in the above-referenced case, U.S. vs Frank Cromwell. The recipients are:

  • Boone Police Department Detective and Homeland Security Investigations Task Force Officer Jason Brent Reid.
  • Homeland Security Investigations Special Agents Patrick G. Wilhelm and W. Lee Swafford.
  • North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Assistant Special Agent in Charge Nathan Samuel Anderson.
  • Watauga County Sherriff’s Office Captain Carolynn JohnsonDetective Terry A. Julian, and Detective Matt F. Rollins.

The following seven law enforcement officers were selected to receive the Outstanding Case award for their collective work in an extensive multi-agency, multi-state, and multi-defendant drug trafficking operation codenamed “Unicoi Pipeline.”  This joint investigation conducted by law enforcement agencies in North Carolina and Georgia dismantled a drug conspiracy responsible for trafficking large quantities of methamphetamine between the two states, and led to the seizure of multiple pounds of methamphetamine, 65 firearms, and more than $30,000 in drug proceeds.  The award recipients are:

  • Clay County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Todd C. Wingate.
  • Clay County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Thomas H. Woodard.
  • DEA Task Force Officer and Swain County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brian A. Leopard.
  • Georgia Bureau of Investigation Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ken Howard.
  • North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Brett Anders.
  • Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia Lieutenant Tyler Hooks.
  • Union County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia, Deputy Jay McCarter.

This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will not host a formal award ceremony. U.S. Attorney Murray will present recipients individually with an engraved award, commemorating their outstanding efforts and contributions to the fair and proper administration of justice.