JEFFERSON, N.C.- Sheriff B. Phil Howell announces the sentencing of three individuals for their
involvement in a methamphetamine trafficking ring that operated in Ashe, Watauga and
Caldwell counties and was investigated, in part, by detectives from the Ashe County Sheriff’s
On Thursday, January 28, 2021 U.S. District Judge Kenneth D. Bell handed down sentences
ranging from 120 to 144 months to the following defendants:
Christy Lee Latham, 43, of West Jefferson, N.C.
Lathem was sentenced to 144 months in prison, followed by five
years of supervised release. Latham pleaded guilty to
methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy and distribute and
possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Latham’s sentence was enhanced due to her violation of her conditions of supervised release for a prior federal methamphetamine trafficking conviction. Joshua Dean Lipford, 33, of Trade, Tennessee Lipford was sentenced to 138 months in prison months and five years of supervised release. Lipford pleaded guilty to methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy.
Chasty Elaine Hinson Stallings, 40, of Morganton, N.C. Hinston Stallings was sentenced to 120 months in prison and five years of supervised release. Stallings pleaded guilty to two counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and one count of possession of firearm by felon.
Case summary: In September 2019, Stallings was a part of a
methamphetamine trafficking ring operating in Caldwell
County and elsewhere. Over the course of the investigation
Stallings was found in possession of 730 grams of 97.9% pure methamphetamine and a
firearm. The investigation found that, between February and March 2020, in Ashe and
Watauga Counties, and elsewhere, law enforcement seized more than 750 grams of
methamphetamine, with a street value of $63,750.00, and a purity greater than 94% from
Arnold, Latham, and Lipford.
This case is the result of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF)
Operation “Dixie Crystal.” According to court documents, since 2015, more than 220
individuals have been prosecuted as a result of the Dixie Crystal investigation. Court records
show that the drug trafficking organizations involved have trafficked methamphetamine
worth millions of dollars. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized far in
excess of 100 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, $1,000,000 in U.S. currency and other
assets, and dozens of firearms.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray, of the Western District of North Carolina, recognized the
Ashe County Sheriff’s Office, among other agencies, in an announcement released Today.
“Our Narcotics detectives are always out there quietly working on cases in Ashe County and
in areas that impact Ashe”, said Chief Deputy Danny Houck, of the Ashe County Sheriff’s
Office. “We can rarely tell you what they’re doing so it is especially rewarding to see results
like these sentences that were handed down today.”