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Last of Operation JAWbreaker ring leaders found guilty in Superior Court 

Arthur Potts pled guilty to felony attempted trafficking of opium/heroin, two counts of felony obtaining property by false pretenses, and felony larceny in Macon County Superior Court. During sentencing, the Judge ordered that all of Potts’ sentences, a total of 34 to 80 months, be suspended and Potts be placed on supervised probation for 60 months. If for whatever reason Potts’ sentence suspension is revoked and the 34 to 80 months are activated, Potts will be ordered to serve the remainder of the sentence consecutively with credit of 101 days pre-trial confinement.  

“The prosecution of Mr. Potts brings Operation Jawbreaker to a successful conclusion,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Jason Arnold said. “It is the culmination of a long investigation that led to the 2018 arrests of 13 individuals. Along with our law enforcement partners, we are focused on protecting our community from the selling and using of dangerous drugs, sometimes with fatal consequences. This operation highlights effective partnerships in targeting people who have engaged in illegal behavior.”   

Potts’ conviction and sentencing come as part of the 2018 Operation Jawbreaker, a targeted investigation launched after the Macon County Sheriff’s Office, Franklin Police Department, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation started investigating the distribution of controlled substances.

The operation was named JAWbreaker because of the three individuals, James Steele, Arthur Potts, and Wade Ennis, who were believed to have led the drug trafficking operation. During Operation JAWbreaker, investigators were able to identify at least three additional sources of suppliers living in the Atlanta area and supplying Macon County.  Investigators spent hundreds of hours conducting surveillance in both Western North Carolina and Georgia, including the Atlanta area. Warrants for the arrests of the Atlanta, Ga., suspects will be issued and they will be extradited to Macon County upon their arrest. 

“I appreciate the efforts of everyone involved in this extensive investigation. Everyone did an outstanding job and spent countless hours away from their families building strong cases against all of these menaces to our society,” said Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland. “The lives and families destroyed by these individuals and the heartache they helped create is immense. I believe it’s just a matter of time before we see some of them and their illegal activity again. For the best interest of our community I hope they prove me wrong and can change their lives.”

During the gathering of intelligence, investigators discovered that drug purchases and transactions were arranged by Steele, Potts, or Ennis and that the three men made additional arrangements for those drugs to be transported back to this area for distribution. During the operation, investigators were able to identify the three suppliers of heroin and meth in the Atlanta area. In collaboration with their local, state and federal partners, investigators were able to intercept various shipments of heroin and meth during traffic stops by law enforcement as it headed back to Macon County.

Investigators say the drug-trafficking organization was responsible for the transport of controlled substances from the Atlanta area to Macon County and, from there, into other Western North Carolina counties, as well as North Georgia.

The two other leaders of Operation JAWbreaker, Wade Thomas Ennis of Highlands died in September 2020 of a heart attack, and James Steele pled guilty to continuing criminal enterprise, a class C felony — with all remaining charges being dismissed in 2021. Steele was sentenced to 70 to 96b months in prison. 

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