Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell announces the sentencing of three individuals for their involvement in a methamphetamine trafficking ring that operated in Ashe, Watauga and Caldwell counties and was investigated, in part, by detectives from the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office.
On Thursday, January 28, 2021 U.S. District Judge Kenneth D. Bell handed down sentences ranging from 120 to 144 months to the following defendants:
Christy Lee Latham, 43, of West Jefferson
Lathem was sentenced to 144 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. Latham pleaded guilty to methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy and distribute and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Latham’s sentence was enhanced due to her violation of her conditions of supervised release for a prior federal methamphetamine trafficking conviction.
Joshua Dean Lipford, 33, of Trade, Tennessee
Lipford was sentenced to 138 months in prison months and five years of supervised release. Lipford pleaded guilty to methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy.
Chasty Elaine Hinson Stallings, 40, of Morganton
Hinston Stallings was sentenced to 120 months in prison and five years of supervised release. Stallings pleaded guilty to two counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.
In September 2019, Stallings was a part of a methamphetamine trafficking ring operating in Caldwell County and elsewhere. Over the course of the investigation.
Stallings was found in possession of 730 grams of 97.9% pure methamphetamine and a firearm. The investigation found that, between February and March 2020, in Ashe and Watauga Counties, and elsewhere, law enforcement seized more than 750 grams of methamphetamine, with a street value of $63,750.00, and a purity greater than 94% from Arnold, Latham, and Lipford. This case is the result of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Operation “Dixie Crystal.”
According to court documents, since 2015, more than 220 individuals have been prosecuted as a result of the Dixie Crystal investigation. Court records show that the drug trafficking organizations involved have trafficked methamphetamine worth millions of dollars. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized far in excess of 100 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, $1,000,000 in U.S. currency and other assets, and dozens of firearms. U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray, of the Western District of North Carolina, recognized the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office, among other agencies, in an announcement released Today.
“Our Narcotics detectives are always out there quietly working on cases in Ashe County and in areas that impact Ashe”, said Chief Deputy Danny Houck, of the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office. “We can rarely tell you what they’re doing so it is especially rewarding to see results like these sentences that were handed down today.”