Two arrested in three-county drug bust


WHITEVILLE, NC (WWAY) — Two men are charged in what investigators say was a multi-county drug bust in southeastern North Carolina.

At a news conference in Whiteville this morning, the sheriffs of Columbus, Brunswick and New Hanover counties discussed the arrests of Blair Jay Whitham, 66, of Bolivia, and James Michael Beneway, 53, of Bolton. The men are charged with a host of drug-related crimes in the three counties. They say Whitaham traveled to set up deals, while Beneway drove the marijuana back from Colorado in a SUV.

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Columbus County Sheriff Lewis Hatcher said the investigation began with a tip from a concerned citizen. In the end, Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram estimates that officers seized about $25,000 worth of pot. Officers also seized nearly $140,000 in cash.

New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon said deputies seized 4.5 pounds of high-grade marijuana and $37,000 cash from a home on Park Ave. in Wilmington

“The bad guys don’t have jurisdictional lines, well neither do we,” Hatcher said.

Hatcher said the high-grade marijuana is grown in places like Colorado and is considered more potent.

The sheriffs acknowledged they often are questioned why they would use resources on marijuana when there are other drugs that may create more harm, but they say people involved in marijuana trafficking are typically involved in other illegal activity, and in the end all illegal drugs are a problem.

“The drug issue fuels other things. Drugs fuel violence, drive-by shootings, robberies,” Hatcher said. “That’s why we go to these lengths to fight it.”

The investigation continues. Sheriff Hatcher said investigators here are working with counterparts in other states.