The Daily Free Press
GLOUCESTER COUNTY, Va. — An undercover drug investigation that began in Gloucester County netted more than 100 felony charges against 31 people in eight localities. Five of those suspects are at large.
On Tuesday morning, Gloucester Sheriff Robin P. Stanaway announced the end of a seven- month undercover investigation that resulted in 157 felony and seven misdemeanor charges. Of the 31 people, 26 were arrested within the last two weeks.
In all, 135 grams of powder cocaine, 340 grams of crack cocaine, 10.8 kilograms of marijuana, 10 grams of hashish and 110 Oxycontin and Methadone pills were purchased since March. The undercover purchases had a total street value of $161,500. In addition to drugs, the investigation also recovered two desktop computers that were stolen from a Gloucester Wal-Mart, Stanaway said.
No methamphetamine or weapons turned up locally, but about $20,000 in cash and nine vehicles were seized in connection with the investigation, which cost the sheriff's department about $36,000 to run.
The last undercover drug purchase was made on Oct. 24, but the largest buy involved the Oct. 18 purchase of a 15-pound block of marijuana for about $12,000, said Lt. J.W. Schick, the Gloucester detective who led the investigation.
Gloucester officials could have waited until Monday to seek grand jury indictments but instead began to execute search warrants on Oct. 19.
Stanaway dismissed the possibility that the announcement was timed to precede Tuesday's general election.
A 19-year incumbent, Stanaway is facing a two-way challenge from retired Virginia State Police Master Trooper E. Steve Gentry and former Gloucester Sheriff's Deputy Clarence Bowser.
"We discussed the timing," Stanaway said. "It would have been nice to run it another six months, but it was not practical and it was dangerous for (the undercover officer) to be out there. You run these things until it's not safe anymore or you run out of money or your man gets ID'd, and then you end it."
Gentry declined to comment on the timing of the investigation's announcement. Bowser is in the Middle Peninsula Regional Jail, serving a 10-day sentence for contempt of court in a property dispute.
Gloucester Commonwealth's Attorney Robert D. Hicks said several factors were involved in the decision to move forward without first seeking grand jury indictments, including recovering money used in the purchases.
"It got to the point where we were afraid they'd figure out who the officer was if we waited until Monday," Hicks said. "The main thing is they don't have to wait on the court system to issue indictments. They can go ahead and round them up whenever they want."
Those arrested in connection with the investigation will still face Gloucester's grand jury, which meets every other month.
Schick said they would likely have preliminary hearings in January and that the cases may not go before the grand jury for certification until March.
Federal distribution charges could be brought against three of those arrested because in multiple buys they provided more than 50 grams of crack cocaine to the undercover officer, Stanaway said.
Of those arrested, 11 were Newport News residents, eight were from Gloucester, two from Hampton, two from York County and one each from Williamsburg, Middlesex County and Callao.
Two suspects each in Gloucester and Newport News and one in Churchview have not yet been arrested.
Copyright 2007 The Daily Press
31 charged in undercover Va. drug busts