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‘Big Fish’ arrested

WINDSOR – A Bertie County man described as a “big fish” in the local distribution of narcotics is now out of business.

On Tuesday, Thomas Ray Johnson, age 52, of 804 Hexlena Road was arrested at his home.

Johnson stands charged on three federal counts n conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

He is currently being held without bond in the Pitt County Detention Center in Greenville. His detention hearing is set for 10 a.m. on Monday at the Federal Courthouse in Greenville.

Johnson’s arrest comes after nearly five years of investigative work by several law enforcement agencies in eastern North Carolina.

All of that work ended in Tuesday’s arrest. While at Johnson’s home, law enforcement officers seized trucks, race cars, trailers and other property, all deemed as property purchased with drug proceeds.

“The investigation by our office as well as other agencies leads us to believe that Thomas Ray Johnson was a large supplier of cocaine here in Bertie County as well as in Hertford and Northampton and even up into southside Virginia,” Bertie Sheriff Greg Atkins said. “The investigation shows that he is a big fish in the world of illegal narcotics distribution. He was a multi-kilo supplier of cocaine.”

Throughout the investigation, lawmen focused their attention on Johnson’s cocaine distribution business.

Earlier this year, Johnson moved from Bertie County to Greenville where he resided for a short period of time. During that period, Atkins and his staff worked closely with the Greenville Drug Task Force.

While in Greenville, Johnson was found in possession of a kilo (2.2 pounds) of cocaine as well as $22,000 in cash, all of which was seized by authorities there. That discovery led local lawmen to move this case to the federal level. His arrest on Tuesday stemmed from a federal indictment.

“Our investigation here in Bertie County revealed that some of his supply sources were in the Greenville area, but his distribution area was here in Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties as well as the Virginia area,” noted Bertie Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Frank Timberlake.

“We have reason to believe that he has distributed over 150 kilos of cocaine in Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties,” Sheriff Atkins said. “Whenever you’re dealing with drug traffickers like Mr. Johnson who moves large quantities of cocaine, building a case such as this takes a very long time to put together. It also takes a dedicated group of law enforcement officers. We offer our thanks to everyone involved in helping to bring Thomas Ray Johnson to justice.”