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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Eastern District of North Carolina
For Immediate Release
Friday, March 22, 2024

Downtown Benson Business Owner Who Trafficked Pounds of Methamphetamine and Cocaine Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison

NEW BERN, N.C. – Jimmy Waylon Johnson, age 59, was sentenced to 179 months and a $50,000 fine for his role as the leader of a drug trafficking organization that distributed pounds of methamphetamine and cocaine across Eastern North Carolina. Johnson pled guilty to two drug trafficking charges and one money laundering charge on December 11, 2023.

“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.”

According to court documents and other information presented in court, officials from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Duplin, Johnston, and New Hanover County Sheriffs’ Offices, were involved in a multi-year investigation 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. Johnson’s drug distribution began as early as 2015 and lasted until his arrest in 2021.

At times, Johnson used his gambling machine business, Benson Arcade, in downtown Benson to facilitate the drug trafficking. 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. Local law enforcement indicate that some of these locations also became hotbeds for methamphetamine distribution and addiction. On October 14, 2021, law enforcement executed search warrants at Benson Arcade and Johnson’s residence. This resulted in the seizure of $8,000, a kilogram of methamphetamine, and half a kilogram of cocaine. There were also several items observed and seized at Benson Arcade related to the Hells Angels motorcycle gang.

As part of the investigation, four additional co-conspirators were indicted and previously sentenced:

  • Edward Neal Huffman, New Hanover County, 180 months for drug distribution and possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking;
  • Johnie Wayne Culpepper, New Hanover County, 108 months for drug distribution and possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking;
  • Michelle Marie Boring, New Hanover County, 84 months for drug distribution;
  • Leigh Beverly Davis, Wake County, 100 months for drug distribution and possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking; and
  • Randall Norris, Duplin County, 30 months for drug distribution.

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

As part of his guilty plea, Johnson admitted to buying a motorcycle worth approximately $17,000, using drug money. This motorcycle was seized and forfeited by law enforcement.

Michael Easley, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Louise W. Flanagan. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tyler Lemons prosecuted the case.

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launders, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Related court documents and information can be found on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina or on PACER by searching for Case No. 5:23-CR-321-FL.

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