North Carolina man sentenced to 25 years in prison for heroin, fentanyl, cocaine charges

Published 1:52 pm Wednesday, August 3, 2022

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A Leland man was sentenced July 29, 2022 to 300 months in prison for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, 40 grams or more of fentanyl and a quantity of cocaine and five counts of distributing heroin and fentanyl, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of North Carolina. A federal jury found Benne Lee James, 44, guilty of all charges on February 17, 2022.

“Working together with law enforcement, we are working to investigate and prosecute those that are bringing illegal drugs into our communities,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina Michael Easley. “This defendant will trade his time dealing drugs for time behind bars.”

According to court documents and other information presented in court, James sold heroin laced with fentanyl in the Leland area of Brunswick County on at least five occasions from May to August 2018. The release stated that during the course of the investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) learned that James had trafficked more than 16 kilograms of a mixture of heroin and fentanyl from New York in or around November 2016, through August 2018.

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“James and his co-defendant, Alexander Mootoo, had a source of supply in New York to buy bulk amounts of heroin and fentanyl, and then used a courier to bring the drugs on commercial buses to eastern North Carolina,” stated the release. “Once the drugs arrived, James used several properties to store the drugs until it was packaged for sale in the Brunswick and New Hanover County areas. James maintained a network of at least 11 individuals who sold heroin for him, many selling for him on a weekly basis. James also trafficked and sold cocaine on occasion. He has a lengthy criminal history dating back to the mid-1990’s, including common law robbery, possession with intent to sell or deliver heroin, and possession of marijuana.”

Mootoo was sentenced on March 29, 2022 to 38 months in prison for his role in the offense.

Easley made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Louise W. Flanagan. The investigation was led by the Wilmington Safe Streets Task Force, which includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), the Wilmington Police Department and the Brunswick Count Sheriff’s Office and the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Dodson prosecuted the case.