By Dave Russell

U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray announced last Thursday that the leader of a methamphetamine trafficking ring was sentenced to 151 months in prison on drug charges.

In addition to the prison term imposed, U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger also ordered Michael McCray Sykes, 34, of Clyde to serve five years under court supervision after he is released from prison.

According to filed court documents and the sentencing hearing, from February 2018, to April 6, 2018, Sykes distributed and transported large amounts of methamphetamine into Haywood and Jackson Counties and elsewhere. Court documents show that Sykes made trips to purchase methamphetamine from a supply source located in Georgia, and transported the drugs back to Western North Carolina.

From at least April 5, 2018 to April 6, 2018, Sykes and his two co-defendants, Savanah Pauline Justice and Bradford Junior Ledford, operated as a drug conspiracy that transported a large quantity of methamphetamine into Western North Carolina for distribution.

According to court records, on April 6, 2018 Sykes and his two co-conspirators were driving back to North Carolina in two separate vehicles, after purchasing a large quantity of methamphetamine from their supplier in Georgia. Sykes and Ledford were in one vehicle and Justice was in the second one. As filed documents show, law enforcement conducted a traffic stop of both vehicles, and recovered just under two pounds of methamphetamine from beneath the driver’s seat of the vehicle Justice was driving.

“The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has an investigator assigned to work with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration as a task force officer,” Major Shannon Queen said. “The case with Sykes includes work done by this task force officer. Specifics about what his particular portion of the investigation was cannot be divulged, but he was involved in the investigation and subsequent arrest.”

As Sykes previously admitted in court documents, the co-conspirators had purchased the methamphetamine in Georgia and intended to bring it back to Western North Carolina to distribute it locally.

On Dec. 23, 2019, Sykes pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. He is currently in federal custody. Justice and Ledford have pleaded guilty to drug charges and are awaiting sentencing.

In making the announcement, Murray thanked Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, among other agencies.

He also thanked District Attorney Ashley Welch for her office’s coordination over the course of the investigation and prosecution of this case.

“This case serves as an excellent example of local and federal cooperation against the illegal drug trade,” Welch said. “I’m pleased that a staff member from my office successfully prosecuted this case in a federal courtroom.”

As of Monday, Sykes was being held in the Buncombe County Detention Center.