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Officers with the Boone Police Department made three felony arrests as the result of a lengthy multi-agency drug investigation, according to police.
During the investigation, narcotics officers learned that a local man, Ramses Lopez, 40, was part of a large-scale narcotics trafficking organization, and that the other members of the organization were from different areas in North Carolina, officials said.
Police say that undercover officers were able to infiltrate the organization, and make several purchases of narcotics from targets within the distribution ring.
"This type of investigation is very dangerous and labor intensive. Because of complexity and jurisdictional issues, it takes many agencies working together to accomplish the mission," Chief Dana Crawford said, adding, "This case is one of the largest powder cocaine cases ever worked in this area and I am proud of each officer that spent the long hours it took to shut this drug ring down. Our citizens are safer as a result of this investigation."
The Boone Police Department, Watauga County Sheriff's Office, United States Department of Homeland Security, NC State Bureau of Investigation, NC Alcohol Law Enforcement, Beech Mountain Police Department, Ashe County Sheriff's Office, and Mooresville Police Department all took part in the investigation.
The investigation was brought to a close when the three arrests were made during a counter-drug operation in Boone. During the operation, over one pound of powder cocaine was seized, a street value of approximately $20,000, police said.
Approximately two pounds of powder cocaine was seized during the entire investigation. That much powder cocaine has a street value of $38,500, according to police.
Ramses Nava Lopez, 40, Jose Ma Pineda Guzman, 49, and Sonya Orrostieta Velazquez, 45, were all arrested and charged with one count of trafficking in cocaine and one count of conspiracy to traffic in cocaine.
Each were taken to the Watauga County Jail and place under a $100,000 secured bond.
Police told WBTV that the investigation is ongoing, and that more arrests are expected.