North Carolina and Virginia officers charged with drug smuggling appear in court

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Fifteen people - including 13 current and former law enforcement officers - who are accused of protecting cocaine and heroin shipments along the East Coast made their first appearances before a judge in federal court in Raleigh Friday.

All were arrested after a two-year undercover investigation called "Operation Rockfish".

The 15 are charged with conspiring to distribute controlled substances and conspiring to use and carry firearms during and in relation to drug trafficking offenses - along with other charges.

Many family members were in court Friday to see their loved ones. Many wept openly. One woman had to leave the room she was so upset.

Federal Judge James Gates worked his way through the 60-page indictment that includes 54 total counts against the group. He then set detention hearings for next week.

Family members who spoke with ABC11 after the hearing said they are in shock.

"My father picks me up from work every day. He takes me home from work every day. My father's a great man. I don't even see how he can have time to do anything out of the ordinary," said Tyshon Austin.

"I was surprised but it's okay. God got all of them in their hands they will be just fine. They will be just fine," offered the cousin of one of the suspects Elone Hockady.

Here's the full list of suspects:

-Lann Tjuan Clanton, 36, a correctional officer with the Virginia Department of Corrections;
-Ikeisha Jacobs, 32, a deputy with the Northampton County Sheriff's Office;
-Jason Boone, 29, a deputy with the Northampton County Sheriff's Office;
-Wardie Vincent Jr., 35, formerly of the Northampton County Sheriff's Office;
-Adrienne Moody, 39, a correctional officer with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety;
-Cory Jackson, 43, formerly of the Northampton County Sheriff's Office;
-Jimmy Pair Jr., 48, a deputy with the Northampton County Sheriff's Office;
-Curtis Boone, 31, a deputy with the Northampton County Sheriff's Office;
-Antonio Tillmon, 31, a police officer with the Windsor City Police Department;
-Alaina Sue Kam Ling, 27, a correctional officer with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety;
-Kavon Phillips, 25, a correctional officer with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety;
-Crystal Pierce, 31, of Raleigh, North Carolina;
-Alphonso Ponton, 42, a correctional officer with the Virginia Department of Corrections;
-Thomas Jefferson Allen II, 37, a deputy with the Northampton County Sheriff's Office; and
-Tosha Dailey, 31, a 911 dispatch operator for Northampton County.

PHOTOS: Operation Rockfish booking photos


In the FBI sting, one group of suspects was arrested at an airport in Halifax County and that another group was arrested at a Rocky Mount warehouse while waiting for what they thought was multiple kilograms of narcotics.

At a news conference Thursday, U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker said the group conspired to transport drugs along the I-95 corridor multiple times to destinations from South Carolina to Maryland. Authorities said the suspects were transporting fake drugs and that no real narcotics made it to the street as part of the undercover operation.

Those indicted include five current and two former deputies of the Northampton County Sheriff's Office in North Carolina, along with a county 911 dispatcher; a Windsor police officer; three North Carolina corrections officers; two Virginia corrections officers; and a woman from Raleigh.

"They vowed to protect and serve, but instead these deputies and correctional officers sold their badges and used their law enforcement positions to line their own pockets," said FBI Special Agent in Charge John Strong of the bureau's Charlotte office.

The case was investigated by the FBI and North Carolina Department of Public Safety with help from deputies in neighboring Halifax County.

The investigation began when the Halifax deputies received information about public corruption and passed it on to the FBI, Halifax County Sheriff Wes Tripp said.

Strong said the Northampton County Sheriff's Office and the Windsor Police Department weren't told about the investigation until Thursday, but both have pledged their cooperation.

Report a Typo
Related topics:
raleighillegal drugs
Copyright © 2020 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.