by: Greg Suskin Updated:
YORK COUNTY, S.C. - A Charlotte man is in jail in York County, charged in an unusual drug smuggling scheme that took police by surprise.
Charles Wayne, 30, faces multiple counts of drug trafficking. York County drug agents told Channel 9 that Wayne was using local hotels to receive large packages of marijuana that could total up to $250,000.
"This was pretty innovative. It's something I’d never thought of," said Marvin Brown, commander of York County’s Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Enforcement Unit.
Brown said his officers got a tip from police in Arizona that large packages of marijuana were being shipped to the Charlotte area from there.
Drug agents said someone in Arizona would make a reservation at a Rock Hill hotel, then Wayne would arrive there and pick up a package being held for him at the front desk. He'd promptly leave and cancel the reservation without staying at the hotel.
Police believe this same scenario played out repeatedly across the Charlotte area, with a focus on Rock Hill.
"You go in, get your package, cancel your room reservation and leave," Brown said. "We think packages have also been sent to Concord, Gastonia, Huntersville, and likely Charlotte since this guy is from Charlotte."
Drug agents had found three such packages by late Friday, weighing 12 to 15 pounds apiece, and worth roughly $20,000 each.
They arrested Wayne on Thursday, after waiting for him outside Rock Hill's Wingate Inn, when he showed up to pick up a package.
The cardboard boxes of marijuana have address labels on them for the Wingate Inn, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn and Holiday Inn in Rock Hill.
Drug agents aren't sure how widespread the operation is, so they're asking hotel employees to be on the lookout for packages from Arizona sitting unclaimed. They could be connected to the drug case.
"There might be packages of marijuana within a 100-mile radius of here waiting for somebody to pick up," Brown said.
Hotel employees would've never had any idea what was inside the boxes they were holding. However, Brown said drug-sniffing dogs did alert on them for marijuana immediately once they were turned over to police.
Drug agents are still investigating, and it's not clear if there are other suspects.
Brown told Channel 9 that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police planned to search Wayne's home Friday.