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Cherokee drug probe leads to more arrests

A two-year investigation into drug-running on and around the Cherokee Reservation has led to more arrests this week, bringing the total to more than 25 people facing state or tribal charges.

U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins made the announcement Wednesday when a June 4 indictment charging seven new defendants was unsealed. Six of those indicted were arrested Tuesday. One remains at large.

The investigation, focusing on the distribution of prescription drugs on or near the reservation, has involved numerous federal, state, county and tribal groups. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney John Pritchard of Asheville will handle the prosecution.

The latest indictment, which alleges illegal activity between 2007 and 2012 in Swain and Jackson counties, includes both drug and firearm charges. Authorities say they have seized almost $50,000 in cash, 44 firearms, three vehicles and two Harley-Davidson motorcycles that they believe were involved in the drug ring or bought with the proceeds.

The seven charged this month face one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances ranging from oxycodone and cocaine to marijuana and alprazolam. A conviction carries a maximum prison term of 20 years, a $1 million fine, or both.

Jackie Lee Rattler, 54, of Cherokee, also faces six counts of possession with intent to distribute, along with an additional count of using controlled substances while carrying firearms. The latter charge could mean up to 10 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.

More than 20 people face tribal charges. Another nine cases will be handled in state courts.

One of those named in the new indictment remained at large Wednesday. She was identified as Taryn Krista Elizabeth Toineeta Rattler, 25, also of Cherokee.

Gordon: 704-358-5095
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