Cops seize 180 pounds of marijuana, cash

Richland County sheriff's narcotics agents seized more than 180 pounds of marijuana, along with $57,000 in cash and guns, and arrested five people over the past two weeks, Sheriff Leon Lott said Friday.

The confiscated marijuana was in addition to the 300 pounds of the drug and $350,000 investigators seized earlier in September from a Rosewood home. Lott said Friday all the drugs originated from the same network.

"This is a large, sophisticated organization," Lott said. "This is only the tip of the iceberg."

In total, sheriff's narcotics officers in less than a month have seized about 500 pounds of marijuana with a street value of about $2.25 million, Lott said.

He said the suspects tried to avoid detection by transporting the marijuana in beer cases.

In the latest arrests, narcotics agents seized 180 pounds of marijuana, $24,000 in cash, four flat-screen TVs and a 2007 GMC Yukon from the Glenhaven Drive home of Lawrence Lorenzo Armstead, 35, on Sept. 21, Lott said.

Armstead, who turned himself in to authorities Sept. 29, was a partner with Willie Torrain Washington, 29, in the "drug-distribution business," Lott said.

Washington was arrested Sept. 14 after narcotics officers, acting on a tip, found him in a sport utility vehicle containing 10 pounds of marijuana in a Bud Light case, Lott said earlier. Deputies found 300 pounds of marijuana and $350,000 in cash several hours later at Washington's Rosewood home, he said.

Washington is charged with two counts of trafficking marijuana and one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

His bail earlier was set at $250,000, though Richland County jail records Friday evening indicated he has been released.

Armstead remained in the county jail Friday on charges of trafficking more than 100 pounds of marijuana, trafficking marijuana within a half-mile of a school and distribution of marijuana, Lott said.

Armstead's wife, Shalonda Armstead, 33, who turned herself in to authorities Sept. 26, was charged with trafficking more than 100 pounds of marijuana and later was released on bail, sheriff's spokesman Lt. Chris Cowan said Friday.

Narcotics agents developed more leads that led to the seizure of $33,000 in cash, four guns and about 2 pounds of marijuana from homes on Fawn Hill Court in the Summit subdivision and on Providence Plantation off Farrow Road, Lott said Friday.

Avelino Martinez, 25; Gillermo Martinez, 27; and Mitchell Flores Garcia, 27, were arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and simple possession of marijuana, Lott said.