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North Carolina man sentenced to 18 years in prison for drug, firearm charges

Jorge Zapata Castro, 52, of Duplin County, was sentenced April 5 to 216 months in prison for possession with intent to distribute five grams or more of methamphetamine, brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and possession of a firearm by an illegal alien, according to a press release from the Department of Justice, Eastern District of North Carolina.

According to court documents and evidence presented in court, on July 22, 2019, a Duplin County sheriff’s deputy observed Zapata Castro leaving a known drug house. The deputy conducted a traffic stop after Zapata Castro crossed the center line multiple times in the area of North Carolina Highway 241 in Duplin County, stated the release.

“Zapata Castro informed the deputy that he did not have a driver’s license. While the deputy was conducting his investigation, Zapata Castro fled at high rate of speed. During the chase that ensued, Zapata Castro leaned out of the window of his vehicle and pointed a Smith and Wesson .40 caliber handgun at the deputy. Then, Zapata Castro lost control and crashed his vehicle into a person’s yard at the intersection of Old NC 24 and Wagon Ford Road,” stated the release. “Zapata Castro exited the vehicle and then pointed the Smith and Wesson at the deputy again before fleeing on foot. Additionally, Zapata Castro then stole a vehicle from a nearby residence from someone who was washing the car. Zapata Castro was ultimately apprehended in a bean field a short time later.”

“During a search of Zapata Castro deputies found a loaded handgun and methamphetamine,” the release contined. “Detectives also searched the truck that Zapata Castro had wrecked and found 34 grams of methamphetamine and $1,550 in U.S. currency. Zapata Castro was illegally in the country at the time of his arrest and had been previously deported therefore he was prohibited from possessing the handgun.”

The investigation was part of OCDETF Operation “Fighting Jellyfish.” An Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force operation identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks, according to the release.

G. Norman Acker III, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III. The Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, Department of Homeland Security and the Duplin County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Severo prosecuted.

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