By Dave Russell
The supplier of a local drug network has been sentenced to 30 years in prison, according to William Stetzer, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Matthew Wondra, 34, of Murphy, was also ordered to serve five years of supervised release after he is released from prison.
According to court documents and last week’s sentencing hearing, in September 2018, law enforcement became aware that Wondra was operating as a supplier for a local drug network in Cherokee and Graham counties and elsewhere, including Jackson County. Court records show that Wondra frequently traveled to Georgia to purchase kilogram quantities of methamphetamine and heroin, which he then distributed to dealers in Western North Carolina.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office had an instrumental part in the investigation by starting the investigation with the Cherokee Indian Police Department in Murphy, via an initial target who lived on the property of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, according to Chief Deputy Matt Wike.
“That target was being supplied by Wondra,” he said. “Through the JCSO intelligence gathering, Wondra was identified as the head of a drug trafficking organization who utilized direct Mexican connections to import multi-kilogram quantities of crystal methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl into North Carolina through Georgia via vehicles for onward distribution to customers.”
The Sheriff’s Office was the co-case agent of the investigation, which turned into a priority target then into a Drug Enforcement Agency’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation named “Operation WONDRALAND,” Wike said.
The JCSO conducted multiple interviews and surveillances to tie the above-mentioned into a conspiracy that included an overdose death and overdose.
The department assisted with the investigation in its entirety, prepared documents for the Assistant United States Attorney’s Office, and took part in all the federal court proceedings to include the sentencings for all the defendants listed, Wike said.
Throughout the investigation, Wondra engaged in multiple drug transactions, and at times possessed firearms in connection with his drug trafficking activities. On one occasion, Wondra allegedly put a gun to the head of a person he accused of stealing drug proceeds from him during the course of the conspiracy, and he threatened to kill that person. According to filed documents, from September 2018 to August 2019, Wondra was responsible for purchasing and distributing more than 19 kilograms (about 42 pounds) of methamphetamine and over three kilograms (about 6.6 pounds) of heroin.
On Oct. 30, 2020, Wondra pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and heroin. At last week’s court hearing, Wondra received sentencing enhancements for weapons possession, making a credible threat, maintaining a premises for the purpose of storing and distributing controlled substances, and for his leadership role during the drug conspiracy.
Wondra’s co-defendants, Jamie Allen and Derek Wilson, were previously sentenced to 10 years and 4.25 years in prison, respectively, for their role in the conspiracy.
“This is a true testament of the work that can be done when local, state, tribal and federal entities work together to combat drug trafficking organizations,” Wike said.