Three people accused of being part of a methamphetamine trafficking ring operating in Caldwell County and elsewhere in the region were sentenced this week to 10 to 12 years in federal prison, and a fourth is waiting to be sentenced.
Chasty Elaine Hinson Stallings, 38, of Morganton was stopped in September 2019 at the corner of Playmore Beach Road and Hartland Road, and a search of the car found 43 grams of heroin, according to information released at the time. A total of 730 grams of highly purified methamphetamine — 97.9% pure — was found in her possession over the course of the investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina said in a press release after her sentencing this week in U.S. District Court in Charlotte.
According to court records, between February and March 2020, law enforcement officers in Ashe and Watauga counties and elsewhere seized more than 750 grams of methamphetamine with purity greater than 94% from three other people in the same drug ring: Christy Lee Latham, 43, of West Jefferson, Joshua Dean Lipford, 33 of Trade, Tennessee, and Heather Renee Arnold.
Stallings pleaded guilty to two counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and one count of possession of firearm by felon. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison and five years of supervised release.
Latham pleaded guilty to methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy and distributing and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Latham’s sentence was enhanced due to her violation of her conditions of supervised release for a prior federal methamphetamine trafficking conviction, and she was sentenced to 12 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release.
Lipford pleaded guilty to methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy. He was sentenced to 11 ½ years in prison and five years of supervised release.
Arnold pleaded guilty in December to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and is awaiting sentencing.