Police from the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina seized over $500 million worth of opium-producing poppy plants last Tuesday. This was a remarkable seizure that will go down in history not only for the sheer amount of plants recovered, but also for how police made the discovery, which was by accident.
When officers arrived at the home of Cody Xiong, 37, for an unrelated complaint, they were surprised to hear the words, “I guess you’re here for the opium.”
On the contrary, they were not. But the premature confession gave police probable cause to search Xiong's property, where they discovered and seized over 2,000 pounds of opium plants along with several firearms and ammunition.
Since the arrest, deputies for Catawba County have been at removing the plants for days as they piece together the almost Hollywood-like scheme. According to Sheriff Coy Reid of Catawba County, the plan was simple: "It was out there.”
“Only residents know that it is out there at the end of the road," he explained. "It wasn’t something you could just ride by.”
The town of Claremont, where the plants were discovered, has a relatively small population of about 1,400 people and is about an hour's drive away from Charlotte, the state’s biggest city. As of now, the investigation is ongoing and the DEA has become involved with the case.
Although the quiet town of Catawba might be an unlikely place for violence and drug farms, this incident is not an isolated one. The town actually has a history with opium-related crime. According to the Associated Press, Catawba County experienced a gruesome multiple murder in 2009 commonly dubbed “The Opium Murders," in which a woman and three children were found shot and stabbed to death inside their home. The killers had apparently came looking for the woman's husband, who was involved in drug trafficking, and instead found his family.