NC business owner gets 14 years in prison for leading drug trafficking organization, USDOJ says

BENSON, N.C. (WNCN) — A business owner in Johnston County has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for leading a drug trafficking organization that operated out of his downtown business, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday.

The USDOJ says 59-year-old Jimmy Waylon Johnson, who owns the gambling machine business Benson Arcade in downtown Benson, has been sentenced to 179 months in prison and a $50,000 fine.

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Arrest and guilty plea

On Dec. 11, court records show Johnson pled guilty to two drug trafficking charges and one money laundering charge.

The charges come from his role as the leader of a drug trafficking organization that distributed pounds of methamphetamine and cocaine across Eastern North Carolina, the USDOJ said.

According to court documents and other information presented in court, Johnson was arrested after warrants were executed at Benson Arcade and Johnson’s home on Oct. 14, 2021.

Records said the arrest followed a multi-year investigation through the Duplin, Johnston and New Hanover County Sheriffs’ Offices into Johnson’s drug activity.

“Through joint undercover operations, traffic stops, and search warrants, law enforcement determined that Johnson was a leader in the drug trafficking organization that distributed large amounts of methamphetamine and cocaine in at least four counties, stretching from Benson down to Wilmington,” the USDOJ said in a news release, citing court documents.

They said Johnson’s drug distribution began as early as 2015 and lasted until his arrest in 2021.

Trafficking in downtown Benson

According to court documents, Johnson used Benson Arcade to facilitate the drug trafficking at times.

“Along with kilograms of methamphetamine, Johnson would provide video gambling machines to subordinates who would run video gambling in bars, residences, backyards and motorcycle clubs,” the USDOJ said.

Local law enforcement indicated some of these locations also became hotbeds for methamphetamine distribution and addiction.

When search warrants were executed on Oct. 14, 2021 at Benson Arcade and Johnson’s home, investigators said they seized $8,000, a kilogram of methamphetamine, and half a kilogram of cocaine.

They said there were also several items found and seized at Benson Arcade related to the Hells Angels motorcycle gang.

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Others involved

Investigators said Johnson was one of five other co-conspirators who have since been indicted and sentenced.

They said those co-conspirators and their sentences include:

  • Edward Neal Huffman of New Hanover County: 180 months for drug distribution and possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking

  • Johnie Wayne Culpepper of New Hanover County: 108 months for drug distribution and possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking

  • Michelle Marie Boring of New Hanover County: 84 months for drug distribution

  • Leigh Beverly Davis of Wake County: 100 months for drug distribution and possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking

  • Randall Norris of Duplin County: 30 months for drug distribution.

The investigation into Johnson and the co-conspirators also resulted in a seizure of 32 guns, a bulletproof vest and several hundred rounds of ammunition, according to the USDOJ.

As part of his guilty plea, court records show Johnson admitted to buying a motorcycle worth approximately $17,000, using drug money.

Documents said the motorcycle was seized and forfeited by law enforcement.

The USDOJ says Johnson’s prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation.

“We are partnering with law enforcement to get illegal drugs off our streets and make our communities safer,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Easley. “Southeastern North Carolina must stay a safe place for our families and businesses. Drug traffickers like Johnson will be prosecuted and spend time behind bars.”

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