Boone law enforcement ends large-scale drug investigation

Narcotics investigators with the Boone Police Department and the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office ended a large-scale drug investigation Tuesday evening.

In a separate case, another suspect was arrested in connection with illegal possession of marijuana. The large-scale drug investigation ended early Tuesday evening when a suspect was arrested during a counter-drug operation in Boone.

Officers had learned earlier that a methamphetamine trafficker from the Atlanta area was making a large delivery to a location in Boone, according to the Boone Police Department.

Officers identified the suspect as Mauricio “Mario” Baltazar, 20, of  5277 Ahyoka Drive Lake City, Ga.    The agencies planned a covert counter-drug operation to intercept the methamphetamine shipment and arrest the suspect.

The agencies were assisted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to the Police Department.

During the operation, Boone Police K-9 Maus and her handler Master Police Officer J. Warren were also involved.    Maus was used to search the suspect’s vehicle. Maus alerted officers to the presence of drugs inside the vehicle, and approximately one-half pound of crystal methamphetamine was seized.    This amount of methamphetamine has a street value of $22,000, police said.

Baltazar was charged with two counts of trafficking in methamphetamine and is currently in the Watauga County Jail under a $75,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court on May 28.    “This operation represents the very core mission of our narcotics unit. The goal of every drug case we investigate is to identify and arrest the individuals responsible for importing illegal drugs into our town,” said Police Chief Dana Crawford.

In a separate case, Boone officers also involved Warren and Maus in another investigation that day. Officer R. Blevins conducted a traffic stop for a vehicle for speeding and an equipment violation.

The driver was identified as Jerry Dean Osborne, 20, of 185 Village Drive, Apartment 1410, Wilkesboro.

Blevins suspected a controlled substance was involved. He called Warren and Maus to the scene to assist.

Maus led officers to search the trunk of the vehicle, which revealed approximately one-half pound of marijuana and a book bag containing more than $20,000.

Narcotics investigators were called to the scene and took over the investigation.

After an interview with the suspect, narcotics investigators said they have reason to believe the suspect was in Boone to distribute marijuana.

Investigators also believe the money was the proceeds of illegal drug sales, police said.

Osborne was arrested and charged with the felony possession with intent to sell and deliver marijuana, felony manufacture of marijuana by packaging and felony maintaining a vehicle to keep a controlled substance.    Osborne  was taken to the Watauga County Jail under a $3,000 bond.

“Master Police Officer Warren and K9 Maus were crucial in both of these situations. Dogs like Maus are so beneficial to law enforcement. MPO Warren and K9 Maus are a great team and they serve our citizens well. They both did a fantastic job during these cases,” said Sgt. Chris Hatton.

If anyone has information about the location of illegal drugs, but wants to remain anonymous, they can call Crimestoppers.

Crimestoppers can be reached 24 hours a day at (828) 268-6959.

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