Swain admits guilt

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 27, 2006

WILMINGTON – A Bertie County man faces life in prison and possible fines totaling $8 million after he pled guilty here Monday to a pair of federal drug indictments.

Christopher Swain, 44, of Windsor appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Fox and entered a plea of guilty on two of the seven counts handed down Jan. 13 by a Federal Grand Jury.

In one plea, Swain accepted guilt for conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base (crack). That crime carries a punishment of 10 years to life in prison and a $4 million fine.

Swain also pled guilty to count seven in the original indictment n carrying a firearm (a .22 caliber rifle and a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol) during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime and did possess said firearms in furtherance of such drug trafficking crime. He faces five years to life in prison for that admission of guilt plus another possible $4 million fine.

Judge Fox ordered Swain to turn over all drug assets. The judge also set a sentencing date for Aug. 7.

“This court proceeding will hopefully send a very powerful message n if you decide to become involved in illegal drugs, whether as a user, a dealer or both, it will ruin your life,” Bertie Sheriff Greg Atkins said. “Here is a man who will now spend a long time behind bars and also faces possible fines in the millions of dollars.”

Atkins continued, “It should also send a message that we within Bertie County law enforcement have a zero tolerance when it comes to those who push this poison on our citizens. We have in the past and will continue in the future to act upon information we receive from our citizens concerning illegal drug trafficking and seek out and arrest those involved in these crimes.”

Swain was originally arrested on Oct. 7, 2005 for felony drug charges. He was found in possession of a large quantity of cocaine and approximately $15,000 in cash.

Calling Swain a “high level dealer,” Atkins said it took six months of investigative work to bring about the arrest.

Further investigation by the Bertie Sheriff’s Narcotics Division linked Swain to a complex cocaine organization. This organization was said to be responsible for delivering kilo amounts of cocaine throughout Bertie and Martin counties.

Earlier this year, Swain was turned over to the custody of the United States Marshals Service. He was then taken before a Federal Grand Jury in Greenville where the seven-count indictment was returned on Jan. 13.

Detective Sgt. Frank Timberlake and Detective Kenny Gilliam of the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Division handled the local investigation. Assisting were the FBI, SBI, Windsor Police Department, Aulander Police Department, Williamston Police Department, Washington Police Department, Martin County Sheriff’s Office, the NC National Guard’s Counter Drug Task Force and Bertie County Probation and Parole.

Also aiding in the original arrest were two specially trained dogs n “Dakota” (handled by Sgt. Charlie Harmon of the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office) and “Buddy” (handled by Bertie Probation Officer Frank Massey). The dogs sniffed out the drugs and cash.

“It takes a lot of man hours to make an arrest of this nature,” Atkins stressed. “It also takes a lot of assistance on the part of other law enforcement agencies who, like us, are just as dedicated when it comes to identifying and arresting those responsible for the sale and use of illegal drugs.”

Swain was initially jailed based on charges in Martin County where a sting operation was carried out in October of last year. His original charges in Bertie County were one count of Level 3 trafficking, two counts of possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine, two counts of possession of firearms by a convicted felon and one count each of possession of a stolen firearm and maintaining a dwelling as a place to keep, store and sell cocaine.

He was served with the Bertie warrants, one at his residence on U.S. 13 North and the other at the home of his mother at 1408 Rhodes Park Lane in Windsor. There, officers seized three vehicles n two Honda Accords (model years 1989 and 1991) and a 2005 Nissan Altima.

Timberlake said “Dakota” sniffed out approximately $10,000 in one of those vehicles.

Back at the Swain residence on U.S. 13, “Buddy” was credited with locating the cocaine. Also found in the Swain residence was a .22 caliber rifle and a stolen .45 caliber handgun.