Catawba County man arrested for having an acre of opium poppies valued at $500 million

Suspect at the scene of poppy fields in custody and charged.
Suspect at the scene of poppy fields in custody and charged. WBTV

The Catawba County Sheriff’s Office seized an entire field of poppy plants Tuesday, the 2,000 plants have an estimated value of $500 million.

Authorities admit that’s a rough estimate on the value, because the plants still need to be weighed.

The plants are used in the manufacturing of opium, and growing them is far from legal. The field was about an acre located near Claremont, a Catawba County town about 40 miles north of Charlotte. It has a population of about 1,300 people.

“This is the second one in the nation,” Sheriff Coy Reid told the Hickory Daily Record. “One of our narcotics investigators came to the house looking for something else. When he knocked on the door, the guys said, ‘I guess you’re here about the opium.’ 

The plants were in rows, like corn, in a field behind a home on Poultry Road.

One person in a nearby home was charged in connection with the field, the Daily Record reported.

Catawba County Sheriff's Office deputies got a tip last week and were able to obtain a search warrant, reported WBTV, the Observer’s news partner. The station identified Cody Xiong as the suspect arrested and charged with manufacture and trafficking by possession.

Xiong, 37, is also suspected of being involved in a cockfighting operation, due to a number of chickens found at the home with unusual wounds, officials said. Eighty chickens were found on the property and confiscated, officials said. No charges had been filed in connection with the animals as of Thursday.

The Hickory Daily Record reports it is not yet clear if Xiong owns the property, or was just living on it.

Investigators said the only other opium poppy plant field has found in the United States this year was in California.

Plants were being pulled up Tuesday, and loaded into trailers.

Officials do not believe the plants were being made into opium on the property.

"The plants are being harvested here, and sent somewhere else where the opium is being produced from the plant," Captain Reid said told WBTV.