GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Police recently seized 81.5 pounds of cocaine in one of the largest drug busts in Grand Rapids history.
The bust happened Oct. 8 on Church Place SW, News 8 learned through court documents. Two suspects have been charged and could face a life sentence in prison.
In the nearly three decades that Chris Becker has worked in the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office, this bust may stand alone.
“In terms of my experience in this office, I can’t remember many, if any, that are larger than this one. This is an extraordinary amount,” Becker told News 8 Wednesday.
According to a probable cause document, officers with the Grand Rapids Police Department who were working on an ongoing drug investigation saw a red semi-truck pulling in front of a residence on Church Place SW on Oct. 8.
Police say a man with a Texas ID, Charles Celestine, got out of the semi holding a large black duffle bag. He went inside the home for five minutes, investigators said.
After he left, GRPD and Michigan State Police pulled Celestine over and found him with 34 pounds of cocaine, $150,000 and a handgun.
Investigators say 37-year-old Timothy Gant later left the home, and police stopped and arrested him. Prosecutors say Gant was carrying $40,000 on him.
Police then searched the home and said they found 47 pounds of cocaine and two handguns.
“We’re gonna do everything we can to keep these people off the streets because it is getting death out into the community and we don’t want that,” Becker said.
It’s not the first time Gant has faced trouble with the law for drugs. In 2010, he pleaded guilty to controlled substance possession and only received probation. In 2013, he was charged with illegally selling marijuana and running a drug house, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Gant and Celestine are charged with conspiracy to deliver and manufacture a controlled substance, which can carry a life sentence. The charge is aimed to deter people from selling deadly drugs.
“If they do it, we can hold them much more accountable and maybe keep them from doing it down the road,” Becker said.
GRPD Chief Eric Winstrom said the investigation is the result of months of work by the GRPD Vice Unit, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“Illegal drugs are a threat to the health and safety of our community in so many ways, from the harm substance use and addiction causes to individuals and families to the violence the drug trade brings to our streets and neighborhoods. I commend our officers for their perseverance and dedication to hold these individuals accountable,” wrote Winstrom in a statement.
Becker said big busts like these are becoming rarer as many police departments remain short on staff.
“There’s been somewhat of a decrease,” he said. “Going to manpower issues in terms of law enforcement, they don’t have as many people on the road.”
On top of that, Becker said criminals are changing their tactics to avoid getting busted.
“A lot of it is coming across the border, it’s coming from out of the city, you don’t see the storage, if you will, and houses and stuff like that,” Becker said. “They’re moving it through the mail, there’s a lot more transportation from out of Michigan, out of Kent County, moving it in here.”
Gant and Celestine are scheduled to appear in court on Thursday for a probable cause conference.