AKRON—Crackdowns on possession and distribution of drugs at two Goodyear tire plants—resulting in the arrest of 20—may only be the beginning of much wider probes.
Law enforcement officials in Cumberland County, N.C., and Virginia arrested a combined 19 Goodyear workers along with one non-employee on charges ranging from possession of marijuana to drug trafficking and sale of various illegal drugs.
The arrests were made at the firm's Fayette¼ville, N.C., and Danville, Va., tire making facilities.
The investigations at both factories are continuing, police officials said.
“We're not done,” a spokeswoman for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office said. “This may only be the tip of the iceberg.”
A Virginia state police spokesman said the probe at the Danville plant is ongoing and that additional arrests are anticipated.
A lengthy undercover operation, led by the Cumberland County Sheriff's Bureau of Narcotics, began in August 2009 at the tire maker's Fayetteville factory, which employs about 3,000 and makes replacement car tires.
It culminated with the arrest of 14 employees on the job and one alleged drug supplier March 30.
Undercover narcotics agents maintained they were able to buy cocaine, marijuana and numerous prescription drugs from employees inside the Fa¼yette¼ville facility during the eight-month undercover operation. Drugs also were found in parked cars.
“Goodyear was worried about the safety of the employees at the plant,” the Cumberland sheriff's department spokes- woman said. “So we responded. The sheriff has been interested in getting into that plant for 15 years because of rumors about drug use there.”
A security team also was involved in the Fayetteville undercover drug sting, she said, adding that it was the same security company Goodyear used to conduct an investigation at its Topeka, Kan., tire plant in 1999 when three employees were arrested for selling drugs.
Employees picked up in the Fayette¼ville raid and charged with felonies were:
Dachonne Moorehead, trafficking, possession, delivery and sale of cocaine and trafficking by transport and conspiracy, five counts; Robert Truman, possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine and trafficking opium by sale and delivery, nine charges; Jeffrey Whitt, possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine, three counts; Almadie Allison Whitt, trafficking, possession, delivery and sale of opium and conspiracy, four counts;
Mary Stone, trafficking, delivery and sale of opium and possession with intent to sell and deliver opiates, six counts; Tony McKoy, trafficking, selling and delivery of opium, three charges; Joseph Brown, trafficking, possession, delivery and sale of opium and conspiracy, four counts; William Beckham III, possession with intent to sell and deliver Ecstasy, three charges;
Kristopher Ward, possession with intent to sell and deliver marijuana and maintaining a vehicle for the sale and delivery of the drug, seven charges; Michael Fricks, possession with intent to sell and deliver marijuana and maintaining a dwelling for the sale and delivery of marijuana, eight counts; Christopher Shirley, possession with intent to sell and deliver marijuana, sale and delivery of marijuana, three counts; and
Larry Abrams, Gloria Locklear and Ronald Sulser, possession with intent to sell and deliver marijuana, three counts each.
William Chad Devotie, a non-Good-year employee, also was apprehended and charged with trafficking cocaine, possession, sale and delivery of cocaine, traffic by transport, and conspiracy. Police allege he is a drug dealer, and he has been charged with five felonies.
Jail terms for anyone convicted probably would vary, the Cumberland sheriff's department spokeswoman said.
Investigation nabs five
Meanwhile, a drug sweep was conducted in February 2009 at the Danville plant, which produces truck tires and employs about 2,000.
That probe led to the Virginia state police teaming up with the Danville police department, the Pittsylvania County sheriff's office and the Danville Virginia Commonwealth attorney's office to set up an investigative team inside the plant, working in cooperation with Good- year.
On April 1, five factory workers were arrested; all were charged with distribution of marijuana and four were also hit with one count of conspiracy to distribute the drug, the Virginia state police spokesman said.
Arrested and charged with one count of marijuana distribution and one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana in the Danville plant drug sweep were Timmy L. Dunn, Barry A. Browning and Jon J. Henderson. Steven F. Wyatt was charged with two counts of distribution of marijuana and one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana, and Donald D. Henry was charged with one count of marijuana distribution.
Each felony charge carries a term of one to 10 years in prison and up to $2,500 in fines, according to the spokes- man.
In both drug probes, Goodyear was proactive, alerting authorities that it suspected drug activity was taking place at the plants and following up by cooperating fully with investigators, police officials said.
“Goodyear requested assistance from local law enforcement agencies in both of those communities,” a Goodyear spokeswoman said. “Those agencies conducted the investigations with Goodyear's full support and cooperation.”
She said the tire manufacturer's top priority is the health and safety of all employees.
“Goodyear will not tolerate illegal activity in the workplace,” she said. “As in these instances, if we have reason to suspect that this type of activity may be occurring at any location, we will take the necessary steps to eliminate it.”
In addition to their legal woes, all those arrested are subject to disciplinary processes at the two plants, the spokeswoman said.