SBI arrests former Columbus/Henderson County officer on drug charges

Published 2:49 pm Friday, March 27, 2015

Although he hasn’t worked for the Columbus Police Department for about a decade or the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office in a couple of years, former police officer Christopher Joseph Rome was arrested this week on drug charges, according to the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation (SBI).

Rome, 44, of 395 Walker St., Columbus, was arrested by the SBI on Tuesday, March 24 and charged with three counts of exceeding the purchase limits of pseudoephedrine, an over-the-counter drug monitored by state and federal law because the ingredient is considered precursor to make the controlled substance methamphetamine.

Chris Romeweb

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The legal purchase limit of pseudoephedrine in North Carolina is no more than 3.6 grams per day and not to exceed 9 grams in a 30-day period, according to the SBI.

Psuedoephedrine is commonly found in Sudafed, an over-the-counter decongestant.

The arrest warrant said there is probable cause to believe that the defendant, “unlawfully and willfully did purchase or cause to be purchased pseudoephedrine in excess of 9 grams in 30 days” on three occasions.

A press release from the SBI said Rome allegedly made these purchases and in a manner that circumvented the statutory amounts allowed by state and federal laws since October 2014.

The SBI said that Columbus Police Chief Chris Beddingfield requested an investigation on Feb. 6, 2015 based on information received from a concerned resident. The Columbus Police Department contacted the SBI because of a conflict of interest in investigating the case of a former employee.

“The concerned citizen allegedly reported that Rome had conducted suspicious and excessive purchases of pseudoephedrine,” states the SBI’s release.

Rome is a former assistant chief and reserve officer with the Columbus Police Department, with Beddingfield saying although Rome was still on the town’s books as a reserve officer prior to his arrest, he hasn’t worked for the town in nine-10 years and did not have a Columbus uniform. Reserve officers are often kept on the books in order for them to maintain their certifications.

Rome also served Columbus over a decade ago as the town’s acting chief, following a former chief’s retirement. Rome was a member of the Columbus Planning Board until Thursday, March 26, when Columbus Town Council met and did not re-appoint Rome to the board while filling vacancies.

Rome most recently was a reserve officer for the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office from late 2012 until 2013. A Henderson County Sheriff’s Office official said Rome worked part-time as a reserve officer and when the opportunity for full-time employment became available Rome was not hired.

According to North Carolina Law referred to as the “Methamphetamine Lab Prevention Act of 2005,” over-the-counter medications such as ones containing pseudoephedrine must be kept behind the counter and only sold to persons age 18 and older.

Rome did not receive charges related to methamphetamine.

“The retailer shall require every retail purchaser of a pseudoephedrine product to furnish a valid, unexpired, government-issued photo identification and to provide, in print or orally, a current valid personal residential address,” states the law.

The name and address of every purchaser shall be entered in a record of disposition of pseudoephedrine products to the consumer on an approved form, the law goes on to say.

“The record of disposition shall also identify each pseudoephedrine product purchased, including the number of grams the product contains and the purchase date of the transaction,” states the law.

The law requires the retailer to electronically submit the information following a sale of pseudoephedrine to the National Precursor Log Exchange administered by the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators, according to the law. The  seller shall not complete the sale if the system generates a stop alert on the person, according to law.

Rome was released from jail and given written promise to appear in court. His court date is set for April 1.