SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - A significant drug bust made last week in Rowan County highlights the preeminence of Interstate 85 as the "meth highway," according to investigators.
On Thursday of last week, the Rowan Sheriff's Office, with help from the US Department of Homeland Security, arrested two people on charges that they were trafficking methamphetamine.
Federal, state and local law enforcement have for the past three years targeted individuals involved in the trafficking of methamphetamine from Georgia to Rowan County by means of passenger vehicles.
The arrests were the result of a traffic stop of a Honda CR-V that was made near the town of Faith on Fraley Street. Investigators say they had reason to believe that the car would be in Rowan County, and that it would contain methamphetamine that had been manufactured in the metro Atlanta area.
The driver was Jonathan Mark Patton, age 30, with Brock Michael Rowe, age 41, and Ashley Dawn Sanders, age 25, as passengers. Patton was a Salisbury resident and Rowe and Sanders lived in Lexington, North Carolina.
During the traffic stop, investigators say they discovered a clear plastic bag containing approximately one half ounce of cocaine that fell from the waistband of pants being worn by Rowe.
Investigators say they found 280 grams of methamphetamine in the handbag of Sanders. Two plastic bags of marijuana were also found.
The value of the seized drugs was $10,000.
Rowe and Sanders were charged with trafficking methamphetamine by possession and transportation, possession with the intent to sell/deliver cocaine, and possession with the intent to sell/deliver marijuana.
Bond was set at $500,000 each for Rowe and Sanders.
Patton was issued a citation for driving while license revoked and failure to use a turn signal.
Investigators in Rowan County say cases like this are becoming more common where methamphetamine is manufactured and shipped from Georgia along I-85 into North Carolina.
"As far as methamphetamine is concerned, it's literally become known as the meth highway, going to Georgia," said Chief Deputy David Ramsey of the Rowan Sheriff's Office. "The price of methamphetamine has plummeted due to the availability of supply coming from the Atlanta area that we're really not seeing a whole lot of methamphetamine manufacturing ongoing right now based on that."
Investigators say the meth is usually made in super-labs in Mexico and bought by the pound.
Last month, the DEA seized 500 pounds of meth in the Atlanta area, all hidden in Disney figurines, and all coming from Mexico.
Meth can also be liquefied and smuggled into the U.S. and crystallized in meth conversion labs.
The number of meth labs found locally and across the state has dropped dramatically, but investigators like Chief Ramsey say there's just as much meth as ever before.