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Contributed photo by Cherokee Indian Police Department / Officers from the Cherokee Indian Police Department in Cherokee, North Carolina, seized 900 pounds of suspected marijuana Thursday after an assault call outside a local casino. Police estimate the weed is worth about $3 million on the street.

Two Meigs County, Tennessee, men are behind bars in Cherokee County, North Carolina, on drug trafficking charges after the discovery of almost half a ton of marijuana in a U-Haul following an assault call at a casino Thursday morning.

Cherokee Indian Police Department officers seized more than 900 pounds of suspected marijuana after a domestic violence call outside of Harrah's Valley River Casino and Hotel on Casino Parkway in Murphy, North Carolina, according to a news release from the department issued Thursday. Police put the street value of the marijuana at $3 million.

Police photos of the seizure show dozens of packages of the suspected drug piled high at the police office.

Brandon Thomas Jones, 27, of Ten Mile, Tennessee, was charged with assault on a female, related to the initial call, and trafficking in marijuana, possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia, the release states. Jones is being held without bond on the assault charge and on a $200,000 secure bond on the other charges.

Daniel Jerry Wiggins, 28, also of Ten Mile, was charged in connection with the load of suspected pot with trafficking in marijuana, according to Cherokee County Jail records. The release states Wiggins was also charged with displaying a fictitious license plate. Wiggins is being held on a $200,000 secure bond.

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Contributed photo by Cherokee County Sheriff's Office / Brandon Thomas Jones, 27, of Ten Mile, Tenn.
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Contributed photo by Cherokee County Sheriff's Office / Daniel Jerry Wiggins, 28, of Ten Mile, Tenn.

(READ MORE: Mother, son charged in theft of more than $83,000 from Meigs County church)

The pair faces a court date in North Carolina District 30 Court in Cherokee County on Dec. 16, according to court officials in Murphy.

The arrests stem from a domestic violence call at the casino early Thursday to which a Cherokee Indian Police Department officer responded. Officer Christopher Harris spoke with a man and woman on foot near the casino hotel entrance, the release states. After speaking with both parties, Harris determined an assault occurred and Jones was arrested.

When the woman's ride arrived, it was pulling a U-Haul bearing a North Carolina-issued "Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians" license plate, the release said. Harris asked the driver about the license plate. After a brief conversation, the driver gave consent to search the vehicle. Police allegedly found multiple loaded syringes, two firearms and more than 900 pounds of "processed marijuana."

The woman listed as a victim in the assault charge also ended up with charges in the incident, court records show. The woman, also a Meigs County resident, was charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance on jail premises after Harris allegedly found meth in her sock at the jail, according to court and jail records.

She is not being named because she is listed as an alleged victim in the domestic violence call and the associated charge against Jones. She is being held on $10,000 bond and has the same court date as the men next week, records show.

The cases will not be prosecuted in Tribal Court because only defendants enrolled in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are prosecuted there, according to officials in the Tribal Prosecutor's Office. The casino area lies within the Murphy city limits but also on tribal land where calls are answered by Cherokee Indian police, officials said.

Additional charges are pending, police said.

(READ MORE: Marijuana edibles packaged as candy seized in DeKalb County, Alabama)

Court officials said two of the three defendants appeared Friday morning to discuss legal representation.

Jones' court-appointed attorney, Hayesville, North Carolina-based Jim Parker, and the woman's court-appointed attorney, Murphy-based Julie Walker, having been just appointed when contacted by telephone Friday said they had no familiarity with their cases and couldn't comment.

Wiggins told the court he would hire his own attorney, court officials said.

"Our Snowbird/Murphy Division has been applying intense pressure to local lawbreakers on a daily basis," Cherokee Indian Police Department Chief Josh Taylor said in the release. "They work understaffed every day, yet come up big for us, producing great police work."

(READ MORE: Early New Year's Eve earthquake rattles Cherokee County in North Carolina)

(READ MORE: U.S. House votes 407-16 to return Cherokee lands, but no one takes up the idea in the Senate)

Taylor commended the department's narcotics investigators and thanked the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office and Murphy Police Department for those agencies' help in the case. The chief specifically thanked Sgt. Jeremy Spencer, the team leader of the investigative unit.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.

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