Two charged in drug seizure

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comFebruary 11, 2014 

— Investigators found more than 4 pounds of heroin with two men leaving an Indian Land home in what Lancaster County authorities said Monday was the largest seizure of the addictive street drug in years.

Sheriff Barry Faile estimated the street value of the heroin at $400,000 to $500,000.

Last week, Lancaster County sheriff’s deputies, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers and State Law Enforcement Division agents investigated a home on Harrisburg Road in Indian Land after receiving information about possible drug activity there, Faile said.

While watching the house, investigators spotted Joseph Shawn Chasteen, 25, of Charlotte, and Cody Howard, 19, who lives at the home, leave in a 1993 Honda Accord, Faile said. Knowing that Chasteen did not have a valid driver’s license, police stopped the car.

Inside the car, deputies said, officers found a bag filled with 4 pounds of powdered brown heroin, a small amount of marijuana, a sawed-off shotgun, balloons filled with heroin, digital scales and a vacuum sealer.

The Indian Land house “was a place for storage and selling” the drugs, Faile said. Charlotte police had forwarded a tip about Chasteen and Howard to Lancaster County authorities. Faile declined to comment on what kind of information was shared.

Howard and Chasteen were charged with trafficking heroin, possession of marijuana and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.

They are being held at the Lancaster County Detention Center without bond.

According to SLED records, Chasteen has been convicted of driving under suspension and a seat belt violation, and Howard has a breach of peace conviction.

The men are part of a network that trafficked the drugs to “multiple locations, not just here in Lancaster County,” Faile said. The investigation is ongoing, he said, declining to comment on whether the arrests would lead to others.

“We will not tolerate this stuff in Lancaster,” Faile said. “If you deal drugs in Lancaster County, we’ll be watching, we’ll be find out who you are, and you will be caught.”

The arrests are another example of what officials have called an influx of heroin into the state, much of it moving down from Charlotte.

“Since I’ve been at the sheriff’s office over the last 25 years,” said Faile, who has been sheriff since 2009, “I don’t recall ever making a heroin case this big and a narcotics case with this big a seizure.”

SLED Chief Mark Keel called the investigation “significant,” saying that “it’s not every day that we see this type of seizure in South Carolina.

“Unfortunately, heroin is coming back.”

Much of that, Keel said, comes from the boost in prescription pill addiction that, while popular, is also expensive.

“Normally, when people get hooked on pills and they can’t find a source for the pills,” Faile said, “they turn to heroin.”

Police in York County have seen the same trend. In 2009, officials faced a growing prescription pill problem, notably in affluent areas like Fort Mill and Tega Cay. Three years later, they reported that many pill users were turning to heroin, also an opiate, because it is cheaper and more available. The drug, typically packaged in balloons, is sold by the tenth of a gram.

Heroin, which users sometimes snort but typically shoot into their veins with needles, comes from Mexican poppy plants and is sold in white, brown or black tar forms.

Clients “tell us it gives them the most phenomenal feeling or rush of pleasure and warmness,” said Bonnie Gladden, director of in-patient services at Keystone Substance Abuse Center in Rock Hill. “The desire is to chase after that same feeling.”

Keystone treats two to three heroin addicts a month, Gladden said, their most recent patient having come in on Friday.

The body builds a tolerance for it, said Marvin Brown, commander of York County’s multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement unit. Addicts who stop using heroin, then pick it up again at the same intensity often die, he said.

Lancaster County Coroner Morris Russell said his office hasn’t seen many overdose deaths involving heroin’s powder form, but he said it has seen plenty of people overdosing on the pills.

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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