Narcotics investigators were busy this week taking down alleged drug dealers who they said were harboring marijuana, methamphetamine labs and the methamphetamine precursors.
The arrests stemmed from three separate incidents, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators said they uncovered roughly 30 one-pot labs Thursday afternoon inside a Bob Cook Road home and at an abandoned residence, both in northern Lincoln County.
The incident has been hailed the largest bust of its kind in the county this year, Narcotics Lieutenant Jason Reid said.
Deputies charged 42-year-old James Christopher Coleman, of 135 Bob Cook Road, with a felony count of manufacturing a schedule II controlled substance.
During a search of the area, investigators also located remnants of labs inside the crawl space of a boarded-up house behind Coleman’s residence.
Officers said they went to the home earlier that afternoon to do a “knock-and-talk” with Coleman and spotted items used to make the drug.
Officials with the State Bureau of Investigation assisted the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office with cleaning up the chemicals. The process took several hours.
North 321 Fire Department assisted the scene due to the presence of flammable materials. Deputies said with the threat of storms Thursday, they were afraid to mix the chemicals with rain and spark an explosion.
With investigators busting a large number of labs in recent months, Lincoln County officers have shutdown more methamphetamine operations already in 2013 than in previous years.
Reid credited the high volume of discovered labs to Sheriff David Carpenter’s willingness to give the narcotics unit the freedom to be creative.
“Our investigators have figured out a way to aggressively work meth labs,” he said. He also anticipated more busts in the future.
Coleman said he was not making or using methamphetamine. He said the labs belonged to individuals who were previously living with him.
Archdale resident Tony Mohammad could not believe the extent of drug activity taking place next door.
“You mean my life’s been in danger all this time, and I didn’t even know,” he said. “I had no idea he (Coleman) was doing what he was doing.”
Bob Cook resident Sabir Jeelani, who lives across the street from Coleman, rushed out with his wife Thursday to view the commotion after spotting live news footage of their street on television.
He said people have frequently moved in and out of the suspect’s house, never staying for more than 20 days at a time.
Coleman is being held without bond in the Harven A. Crouse Detention Center with a first appearance set for today.
In an unrelated incident earlier on Thursday, deputies handcuffed two men, including a teen, after officers said they witnessed the suspects carrying out a drug transaction at the One Stop convenience store on West Main Street in Lincolnton.
Investigators were at the business conducting surveillance of the area at the time of the transaction, the Sherriff’s Office said.
After watching the hand-to-hand drug deal, deputies said they approached the suspects’ vehicles and searched them, seizing four small bags of marijuana.
Aaron Marsh McCoy, 24, of 1801 George Brown Road in Crouse, and Dustin Alexander Lineberger, 17, of 6533 Lineberger Road in Sherrills Ford, were taken into custody.
McCoy faces one felony count each of possession with intent to manufacture, sell and deliver a schedule VI controlled substance, sell and deliver a schedule VI controlled substance and maintaining a vehicle for a controlled substance. He also faces one misdemeanor count of possession of drug paraphernalia.
Lineberger is charged with one misdemeanor count of simple possession of marijuana.
Each has since been released from the county jail, McCoy on an $8,000 secured bond and Lineberger on a $500 secured bond.
In an unrelated incident on Wednesday, deputies spotted and stopped a suspicious-looking vehicle on U.S. 321 while again conducting surveillance, an agency report said.
During the traffic stop, investigators arrested three men after seizing items from the vehicle that they said are commonly used to produce methamphetamine.
Anthony Scott Plude, 27, of 1635 19th Street SW in Hickory, Johnny Paul Franklin, 42, of 2999 South Highway 321, and Colby Ray Williams, 29, of 4692 Flay Road, both in Lincolnton, are each charged with one felony count of possession of a meth precursor.
All three suspects remain in the Harven A. Crouse Detention Center, each under a $20,000 secured bond.