Federal court orders forfeiture of drug house near WCU

by Oct 5, 2020NEWS ka-no-he-da


ASHEVILLE – U.S. Attorney R. Andrew Murray announced on Monday, Oct. 5 that the U.S. District Court in Asheville has ordered the forfeiture of a residence located at 129 Reservoir Ridge Drive, in Cullowhee, used to facilitate extensive drug activities.

“The illicit drug trafficking that took place in the residence jeopardized the health and safety of the entire neighborhood,” said U.S. Attorney Murray.  “The drug activity was particularly harmful to the community because the house was adjacent to the campus of Western Carolina University and near a preschool.  Drug dealers who use their homes to conduct drug transactions are on notice: together with our enforcement partners, we will use all tools at our disposal to take action and protect law-abiding citizens.”

A federal civil forfeiture complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on May 1, 2018, alleged that the residence was used for several years to facilitate the distribution of illegal narcotics, including LSD and marijuana. According to court documents, the residence was the site of multiple illegal drug transactions in 2017 and 2018, and posed a threat to the safety and welfare of the surrounding neighborhood, including the campus of Western Carolina University.

According to the complaint, as early as 2016, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office began receiving complaints from neighbors concerning drug trafficking activities by the owner of the residence, Mark Loren Miller, who entertained heavy car and foot traffic on a daily basis. Court documents also show that Miller’s neighbors routinely recovered needles and other drug paraphernalia near the residence. In 2018, law enforcement executed a search warrant at the residence, and recovered MDMA, a drug commonly known as “Ecstasy,” a large amount of cash, digital scales, and other drug paraphernalia.

The civil case filed by the United States was stayed pending the resolution of Miller’s state criminal case. Following Miller’s guilty plea to state criminal charges related to his drug activities, litigation in federal court ensued. On Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, the Court ordered the forfeiture of the residence to the United States.

In making the announcement U.S. Attorney Murray commended the collaboration between the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan D. Letzring, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville, handled the civil proceedings.

– Department of Justice release