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Local News

Man Charged With Trafficking Nearly $146,000 Of Drugs

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Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office
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A Charlotte man has been charged Wednesday with several counts of illicit drug trafficking.

According to CMPD, police seized nearly $146,000 worth of various types of marijuana, meth and prescription drugs from Refugio Najir Gutierrez Espinoza, 37. Police said they also seized high-powered firearms and protective gear from Espinoza. 

CMPD had received an anonymous tip of suspected narcotic sales at a storage facility on South Tryon Street. Officers conducted surveillance and a traffic stop on Espinoza. He was arrested on April 12 and brought in on traffic-related charges. 

CMPD then obtained a warrant to search the storage facility, where police said Espinoza was living, and discovered two storage units containing illicit drugs.

Lieutenant Patrick Matthews, with the special investigations unit, said it took officers two days to empty out the drugs and paraphernalia from the storage units.

“It was floor-to-ceiling packed,” Matthews said. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Matthews said that the most glaring discovery in the investigation was the large quantity of what’s called butane honey oil, a liquid extract taken from marijuana that contains a highly concentrated amount of THC – the chemical compound that produces a high. The oil is mostly used by younger people, who chew it or vape it, Matthews said. He also said the high concentration can easily lead to an overdose. 

According to Matthews, authorities have seen an increased use of the oil in Charlotte and it was rare for police to seize such a large quantity of it. 

Matthews called the investigation a “huge hit” for CMPD and for the Charlotte community.

“Just by the sheer volume of what we seized that day, it was a huge thing for our city,” Matthews said. “We are keeping this from getting on the street, especially with the opioid crisis.” 

This is an ongoing investigation. Matthews said police are looking into where Espinoza got the drugs and could not yet disclose if anyone else was working with him.