A two-year investigation into drug running on and near the Cherokee Indian Reservation has resulted in more than three dozen people facing federal, tribal and state criminal offenses.
The investigation targeted the distribution of narcotics, with a focus on prescription drugs.
“These arrests have been a long time coming,” Cherokee Police Chief Ben Reed said. “We go to work every day and see the impact illegal drug use and sales is having on our community, and it’s sad. By working with local and federal law enforcement agencies, we realize the importance of true interdiction. Hitting the drug trade and those involved, in a place that hurts.”
Of those arrested, seven were indicted by a federal grand jury on June 4.
The defendants named in the indictment are charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, including oxycodone, cocaine, marijuana and alprazolam. According to the indictment, the alleged conduct took place between January 2007 and December 2012 in Swain and Jackson counties. Those charged are:
• Jackie Lee Rattler, 54, of Cherokee.
• Jacob Hunter Rattler, 21, of Cherokee.
• Timothy Leroy Rattler, 50, of Cherokee.
• Taryn Krista Elizabeth Toineeta Rattler, 25, of Cherokee.
• Justina Nacole Rattler, 31, of Cherokee.
• Evan Thomas Norris, Jr., 54, of Robbinsville.
• Mark Allen Winstead, 26, of Cherokee.
Jackie Lee Rattler also faces six additional counts of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, and one count of being a controlled substance user in possession of firearms. Jacob Hunter Rattler is also charged with one additional count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
The indictment includes a notice of forfeiture, which gives notice that the defendants must forfeit all of the property and currency involved in the offenses charged in the indictment, and all property and currency which are proceeds of such offenses, including approximately $48,900 in cash, 44 firearms, three vehicles and two Harley Davidson motorcycles seized during the course of the investigation.
Six of the seven defendants charged in the indictment are in custody; Taryn Rattler remains a fugitive. Each drug offense carries a maximum prison term of 20 years, a $1 million fine, or both. The user of narcotics in possession of firearms offense carries a maximum prison term of 10 years, a $250,000 fine, or both.
Additionally, tribal and state law enforcement officers have arrested and charged more than 25 defendants on tribal and state drug offenses.
Those facing tribal drug charges are: Deborah Smith, Charles Taylor, Austin Gunter, Humberto Corral, Deanna Smith (not arrested), Kevin Smith, Shenna Crowe, Lisa Toineeta, Sam Thompson, Mike Walkingstick (not arrested), Annie Cucumber, Robert Tramper, Ashley Keel (not arrested), Chadwick Feather, Walter Bradley, Thomas Rickman, Victoria Cucumber (not arrested), Delores Cabrera, Sally Bryson, Raymond Whitecotton, Rachel Taylor and Regan Parton.
Those facing state drug charges are: Alea Ohmart, James Murphy, Ceegee Bird (not arrested), Clyde Taylor, Rogelio Cabrera, Eric Dossett, Anthony Dossett (not arrested), Frankie Dyer and Christin Hodgins (Not arrested).
“I am pleased with the hard work, dedication, determination and the working relationship that we have with all the different agencies involved in this operation,” Swain County Sheriff Curtis Cochran said. “This has been a huge success in our fight against the drug trafficking and distribution in Swain and surrounding counties. The two years spent on this investigation has been a huge payday for the law abiding citizens of this county.”