James Lonnie Ward, 65, arrested
Thomasville Police Department arrested a 65-year-old man Wednesday after finding nearly 2,000 illegal prescription pills at his home.
James Lonnie Ward, 65, of 706 Edgewood Ave., was arrested and charged with possession with intent to sell and deliver controlled substances after a consent search executed by TPD detectives and agents with the North Carolina Law Enforcement Agency at his home.
During the search, officers seized 1,220 Oxycodone pills, 679 Xanax pills and approximately $11,000 in cash, according to Detective Wendell Amos.
"One of our patrol guys received a complaint from a concerned citizen about drug sales at that address," Amos said. "We received specific information that we confirmed later and as a result of that we ended up doing a consent search at the residence. We haven't determined 100 percent where this gentleman got all his pills at. That part of the investigation is ongoing. [Ward] was an older gentleman but was a major pill distributor in the city. He's probably been doing this for awhile. He probably didn't start yesterday, not with the amount of pills he's amassed. We hadn't heard a thing about him until we received the complaint."
An agent with the North Carolina Department of Revenue also took custody of two of Ward's vehicles to pay unauthorized substance taxes owed for illegal possession of narcotics.
"There is a tax that goes on illegal narcotics," said Amos. "His tax bill was over $24,000. The vehicles will be sold at auction to cover his tax bill. Any of the opiate pills, for every 10 you possess, I think it's around $200. It don't take long to add up."
Chief Jeff Insley said the misuse of prescription medications is a growing problem that presents unique challenges for law enforcement agencies. Unlike cocaine or marijuana, medications are purchased at local drug stores, but end up in the wrong hands.
"Our guys did good, I'm proud of them," Insley said. "You've got something that is created to help folks deal with pain or other issues yet people have found another use for them and they're being abused. Trying to develop a strategy to address that to keep folks safe is becoming an interesting plight. it's something we have continue working on to ensure we keep them out the hands of young folk and the people who are abusing them."
Partnerships, both with other agencies and the community, play a key role in helping police combat the increasing presence of illegal pills on the streets, Insley said. Community complaints and information helped TPD identify Ward and proved invaluable in the department's citywide sting in December that netted more than 50 arrests.
"[Partnerships] are priceless," said Insley. "It benefits all involved because you have everyone focused on a particular issue so you're not duplicating efforts. The community is a big partner in what we're able to do. We appreciate the information they give us and the trust that they have in us to take action with the information they've given us."
The Ward investigation was part of ALE and TPD's community betterment initiative.
"This was a great example of how law enforcement is able to partner together to solve problems throughout the community," said ALE Special Agent In-Charge Chris Poole.
Ward was issued a $10,000 secured bond. The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to call TPD at 475-4260 or Crime Stoppers of Thomasville at 476-8477.
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.