Two charged with Heroin Trafficking in multi-agency investigation

News
heroin

GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Continued operations throughout the Appalachian area are seeing Gilmer’s Sheriff’s Office stepping up its work both in solo operations, and in joint operations alongside groups like the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement, Police, and Sheriff’s Offices in other counties and leading to drug seizures like heroin and meth.

heroinOn Wednesday, March 30, 2022, one of those operations involved Gilmer County Deputies, Fannin County Investigators, the Cherokee County North Carolina Sheriff’s Office, and the GBI Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office.

This coalition of law enforcement offices arrested two individuals allegedly involved in heroin trafficking. According to Gilmer’s Sheriff’s Office, an investigation into the trafficking saw the arrest of Jamie Willis Whitener, 44, of Murphy, North Carolina, and Natalie Lynn Scogin, 47, of Murphy, North Carolina.

The two have been charged with Trafficking Heroin after being stopped on Highway 515 in Gilmer County, Georgia. Headed north on the highway, Whitener and Scogin are suspected of being involved in trafficking heroin between Gilmer County, Georgia and Murphy, North Carolina. The Sheriff’s Office states that the two were known to the agencies involved in the investigation.

heroinGilmer Sheriff’s Office stated, “Approximately 10.9 grams of heroin was seized in this investigation, its value being approximately $1,600.”

Working along other agencies, numerous arrests have been made over the years after joint operations such as a four month long investigation in 2017 with the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway Drug Task Force. Additionally, Gilmer’s own deputies continue solo operations resulting in drug seizures like the record-setting arrest for 1.69 pounds of methamphetamines made in 2021.

The Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office is a multi-agency unit that consists of the following Sheriff’s Offices: White County, Lumpkin County, Banks County, Jackson County, Habersham County, Stephens County, Rabun County, Franklin County, Gilmer County, Fannin County, the Cleveland Police Department and the Toccoa Police Department, along with the Georgia National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, the Department of Public Safety, Department of Community Supervision and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Human remains found in Gilmer County

News
human remains

UPDATE: Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson confirmed with FYN today that the remains found in the Hudson-Martin Road area of the county were skeletal. He said that they were complete and not missing any major parts.

Nicholson also confirmed that the remains were found above ground, not buried.

Nicholson said that it could possibly take up to a week or more for preliminary findings but is confident in the GBI’s lab in determining details sooner than that. He also specifically stated that he was confident in the lab and investigators to identify the remains before the investigation ends, providing closure to either a missing person or a crime if investigations find something pointing to that.

Nicholson also confirmed that while they did call in a tech and support from the GBI, the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office is still leading the investigation into these remains.

 

ORIGINAL STORY GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – Authorities have taken custody of what the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office said is suspected human remains on Friday, February 18, 2022.

human remains

Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson

According to a statement from the Sheriff’s Office, the remains were located by a utility company lineman crew at approximately 4:00 a.m. this morning. The locations was said to be “in a wooded area just off of Hudson-Martin Road.”

Hudson-Martin Road leaves off of Highway 52 East at Hillcrest Apple Orchard and connects back to Highway 52 East near the Oakland Clubhouse after crossing Rackley Road.

The Sheriff’s Office went on to say, “Sheriff’s Deputies and Detectives responded to the scene, and a GBI crime scene tech was requested to assist in recovering the remains.”

As of now, the Sheriff’s Office has not determined a cause of death. The remains are will be in the custody of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and their Crime Lab as they determine more information.

FYN has reached out to Sheriff Nicholson for comment and questions on the remains found and is currently awaiting his response. This article will be update with additional information as he provides it. Stay with FYN for new articles as well as new developments are reported.

Ralston calls for GBI investigation into Fulton County elections

Featured News, Featured Stories
Richard Barron election investigation

ATLANTA, Ga – Elected officials are taking aim and Fulton County and its elections director Richard Barron, following new details regarding the 2020 election.

Speaker of the House David Ralston (R – Blue Ridge) released the letter he sent to Fulton Elections Director Richard Barron. In the letter, Ralston requests Barron ask the GBI to investigate November 2020 election. He cited the mounting allegations against Fulton County as his reasoning behind the need for an investigation.

ralston

Georgia Speaker of the House of Representatives David Ralston

“Recently, media reports have surfaced which call into question the way in which Fulton County conducted, counted and audited the November 2020 Presidential Election. These reports have been accompanied by video and other evidence which is part of on-going litigation and requires thorough examination and explanation. Given the seriousness of this situation and the possible repercussions for our state and nation, it is time we have an independent investigation – once and for all – of the way in which Fulton County conducted, counted and audited the November 2020 Presidential Election,” Ralston wrote.

 

Raffensperger calls for Barron’s firing

Throughout the week, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R-Ga) has issued several tweets, and last month, he held a press conference in front of headlines concerning Fulton’s lengthy history of election problems.

primary Raffensperger georgia lawsuits

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger

Most recently, a report of the double-counting of 200 absentee ballots came to light after the new voting law made it public.

“Fulton County’s continued failures have gone on long enough with no accountability. Rick Barron and Ralph Jones, Fulton’s registration chief, must be fired and removed from Fulton’s elections leadership immediately. Fulton’s voters and the people of Georgia deserve better,” one of Raffensperger’s tweets read.

Earlier this year, the Fulton County Elections Board voted to fire Barron, but the commissioners rejected the termination.

Another tweet stated, “Long before November, I had been working to get Fulton to clean up their decades of election mismanagement.  Restoring confidence in our elections should be a bipartisan concern. Fulton County’s poor elections management is making that impossible.”

Raffensperger’s also gone on record urging Republicans to take “the lead on election regulation reform” and that the SOS assigned monitor found “significant management issues.”

Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts (D – Fulton) described Raffensperger’s call to fire Barron and Jones as a “sell out to conspiracy theorists.”

“His ultimate goal is based on the provisions of Senate Bill 202, he would like to take over the elections in Fulton County, that is not going to happen, period,” Pitts told Fox 5 Atlanta.

Under the Election Integrity Act (SB 202), the Secretary of State’s Office does have the authority to take over a county’s elections process if numerous instances of problems are documented. The Department of Justice is currently suing Georgia over the bill on the grounds that it violates voter’s civil rights.

Read the entirety of Ralston’s call for an election investigation below:

Rodriguez arrested in Delgado murder, extradition could mean trial in Georgia

Featured News, Featured Stories

CHERRY LOG, Ga. – Joint releases continue from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) as another arrest has been made for involvement with April 2021 murder of Rossana Delgado, this time for Juan Ayala-Rodriguez.

Reaching all the way back to the original warrants for their alleged involvement, the GBI, working in partnership with the United States Marshal’s Service (USMS) Atlanta and San Diego, coordinated the transfer to U.S. custody of Juan Ayala-Rodriguez, age 35, after his arrest in Mexico.

Rossana Delgado, Rodriguez

Rossana Delgado was discovered in April of 2021 in Cherry Log where she was allegedly murdered.

On April 24, 2021, FYN reported Rodriquez, of Gainesville, Georgia, along with three other suspects, as wanted in connection to the murder. Later, in May 2021, reports came of the arrest of two of those original four alongside a fifth suspect. Now, Rodriquez is the third of the original four arrested.

According to the GBI, “Rodriguez was arrested in Durango, Mexico on Saturday, June 26, 2021.  The USMS-San Diego and Customs and Border Protection oversaw the transfer of Rodriguez to USMS custody and subsequent detention at a California facility. Rodriguez is pending extradition to Georgia to face murder charges.”

No specific information is available on which court Rodriguez may face the charges in. Delgado was last seen in Doraville, Georgia on April 17, 2021. Her husband and authorities tracked her phone as a possible location of Delgado to Covington Highway, which is more on the southeastern side of Atlanta. Eventually, her body was found in a residence in Cherry Log, Georgia, in Northeast Gilmer County.

The GBI stated, “USMS and the United States Department of Homeland Security (HSI) have worked diligently to assist the GBI and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office in this case and in this arrest.  The GBI and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office are very grateful for the support and efforts of the USMS, HSI and all agencies involved in effecting this arrest.”

The GBI and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office continue to actively investigate this case and the individuals involved in the murder of Rossana Delgado.  With three of the four original warrants executed and in custody, the fifth suspect arrested and in custody, the GBI asserted that a coordinated effort to locate and arrest the other three murder suspects, Mario Alberto Barbosa-Juarez, Carolina Jazmin Rodriguez-Ramirez and Maria Chavez is active and ongoing.

As always, the GBI requests that anyone with information to please contact the GBI. Tips can also be submitted by calling 1-800-597-TIPS(8477), online at https://gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online, or by downloading the See Something, Send Something mobile app.

Delgado case updates with new warrant and suspect

Featured News, Featured Stories, News
Encarnacion

CHERRY LOG, Ga. – New information is continuing to come out from authorities on the April 20, 2021, discovery of the murder of Rosanna Delgado.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations has issued yet another warrant in the investigation, this time for Maria Katherine Chavez Encarnacion, 28, of Marietta, GA. The warrant was officially issued for murder due to her alleged involvement.

According to authorities, Encarnacion’s last known location is Mexico. They did not say exactly how Encarnacion was involved in the murder.

As always, officials are asking anyone with any information about Encarnacion’s current location to contact the GBI.

Tips can be submitted by calling 1-800-597-TIPS(8477), online at https://gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online, or by downloading the See Something, Send Something mobile app. If anyone sees Encarnacion, please contact 911.

This case has been ongoing since late April, but it has seen consistent updates as GBI, Homeland Security, and Gilmer Sheriff have supported and continued investigations that started with a welfare check at a Cherry Log Residence. Since then, they have issued seven warrants for arrest, Encarnacion being the seventh. They have also made three arrests of those warrants and one related arrest.

As the investigation nears two months, this latest warrant could indicate new information or changes in the case, as the GBI continues updating us, we will continue to update the story.

Pickens County Man Arrested for the Sexual Exploitation of Children

Featured News, Featured Stories, News
Sexual Exploitation of Children

Ball Ground, GA (June 2, 2021) – On Tuesday, June 1, 2021, Frederick Austin Homonek, age 33, was arrested and charged with four counts of Sexual Exploitation of Children (Possession of Child Pornography) by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes (CEACC) Unit. The GBI CEACC Unit began an investigation into Homonek’s online activity after receiving a Cybertip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) regarding the online possession and distribution of images depicting child pornography. This investigation led to a search warrant at Homonek’s home and to the subsequent arrest of Homonek.

Homonek was booked into the Pickens County Jail upon his arrest.

This investigation is part of the ongoing effort by the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, housed within the GBI’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit, to identify those involved in the child pornography trade. The ICAC Program, created by the U.S. Department of Justice, was developed in response to the increasing number of children and teenagers using the Internet, the proliferation of child pornography, and the heightened online activity by predators searching for unsupervised contact with underage victims.

Anyone with information about other cases of child exploitation is asked to contact the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit at 404-270-8870. Tips can also be submitted by calling 1-800-597-TIPS(8477), online at https://gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online, or by downloading the See Something, Send Something mobile app.

https://gbi.georgia.gov/press-releases/2021-06-02/pickens-county-man-arrested-sexual-exploitation-children

Delgado case updates with woman’s identity and arrest warrant

Featured News, Featured Stories, News
person of interest, warrant

CHERRY LOG, Ga. – Investigators have confirmed the identity of, and issued a murder warrant for, a woman previously reported in the Rossana Delgado murder case as a person of interest that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) was seeking to question.

Originally releasing a video of an unnamed woman alongside Rossana Delgado in a Ross store, the GBI requested the public’s help in identifying her. Now, the GBI has released her name. But more than just the name, a murder warrant has been issued for Carolina Jazmin Rodriguez-Ramirez, 28 of Oklahoma, for her involvement in the murder of Rossana Delgado.

The GBI originally stated that the woman, now known to be Rodriguez-Ramirez, was one of the last people to interact with the victim long before authorities discovered the name of the fifth suspect when they arrested three people involved in the murder. Now, investigators have identified Rodriguez-Ramirez as the woman with Rossana Delgado in the Ross and Mercado Fresco video previously released in this case.

The video, taken on April 16, 2021, shows the now sixth suspect allegedly involved in the murder according to the warrant.

The GBI stated, “Rodriguez-Ramirez’ location is currently unknown, but she is believed to be in Mexico with at least one other suspect, Mario Alberto Barbosa-Juarez.”

The GBI press release also stated that additional charges are anticipated in addition to the murder warrant. They have already confirmed involvement and partnerships with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Atlanta, HSI Harlingen, Texas and Attaché Matamoros, Mexico. This was how they coordinated their three previous arrests in the case, all three of which took place in Mexico.

Police and Investigators have continually asked for the public’s help in identifying or finding additional information on suspects allegedly involved in the case, but have not commented specifically on if this identification came from a public tip or through the investigators themselves. More information is continuing to become available from the GBI and will be posted to FYN when available.

Three arrested in Delgado murder investigation

Featured News, Featured Stories, News
Rossana Delgado

CHERRY LOG, Ga. – Three arrests have been made, according to the Georgia Bureau of Ingvestigations (GBI), in relation to the April 20, 2021, murder of Rossana Delgado in Cherry Log, Georgia.

After weeks of searching for the suspects and asking the public for help in identifying persons involved, the GBI released a statement today confirming the capture of three suspects, providing progress to the investigation and refocusing some public support.

The GBI stated, “On Saturday, May 15 2021, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, working in partnership with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Atlanta, HSI Harlingen, Texas and Attaché Matamoros, Mexico coordinated the arrests of Megan Colone, 30, and Oscar Manuel Garcia, 26.  The fifth suspect (previously identified in news releases by photographs) in this murder was located with Oscar Manuel Garcia and was identified as Juan Antonio Vega, 25.  A warrant was taken for Vega for the murder of Rossana Delgado.”

According to GBI information, Vega is a Cobb County resident.

Megan Colone AKA Grace Beda

Oscar Garcia

The fifth suspect allegedly involved in the Delgado murder has now been identified as Juan Antonio Vega.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since the murder, Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office, whose deputies discover Delgado as they conducted a welfare check at a residence in Cherry Log, Georgia, have passed the investigation to the GBI who have pursued the case up to these arrests.

All three suspects were apprehended in Mexico. GBI did not state specifically where in Mexico they were located, but did confirm that the suspects have been returned to the United States saying, “HSI Harlingen and Customs and Border Patrol oversaw the transport of the suspects to Texas detention facilities.  All three are pending extradition proceedings to Georgia to face murder charges.”

GBI credited all agencies involved in the case as they noted that HSI has worked diligently to assist the GBI and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office in this case and in these arrests.  They stated, “The GBI and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office are very grateful for the support and efforts of HSI and all agencies involved in affecting these arrests.”

However, with three suspects in custody, the case is still ongoing continuing the search for the additional suspects, Juan Ayala-Rodriguez, 35, of Gainesville, GA, and Mario Alberto Barbosa-Juarez, 29, of Oklahoma City, OK. The GBI and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office continue to actively investigate this case and the individuals involved in the murder of Rossana Delgado.

Other aspects of this case are still pressing in that investigation as the GBI is still searching for the identity of one of the last people to interact with the victim, Rossana Delgado. Releasing a video of April 16, 2021. As one of the final people to see Delgado, GBI are seeking more information on the woman in the video with Delgado as a person of interest. Any information could be vital to aiding in capturing these suspects or in finding more details of Delgado’s final hours.

The GBI reiterated the push for the additional suspects saying, “A coordinated effort to locate and arrest the other two murder suspects, Juan Ayala-Rodriguez and Mario Alberto Barbosa-Juarez, is active and ongoing. Anyone with information as to the identity of the woman pictured in previous news releases are asked to contact the GBI. Tips can be submitted by calling 1-800-597-TIPS(8477), online at https://gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online, or by downloading the See Something, Send Something mobile app.”

During their original release, the GBI stated that Colone may have been traveling under the alias, Grace Beda and was believed to be traveling with her minor children. They have since confirmed that Colone’s children were safely returned to the United States during these arrests operations.

GBI updates investigation with evidence and one connected arrest

Featured Stories, News
Sheriff's, Arrested, arrest

CHERRY LOG, Ga. – The GBI has announced the seizure of two vehicles in relation to the murder of Rossana Delgado alongside an arrest.

“A white Ford F150 and white Buick Regal belonging to two of the five suspects in the murder of Rossana Delgado and Delgado’s red Ford Focus have been recovered.  All three vehicles are being processed for evidence in this investigation,” said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).

Rossana Delgado, arrest made

Rossana Delgado

In the same press release announcing the seizure of the vehicles, they also announced the arrest of Calvin Harvard, 28, of Covington, Georgia. Charged with tampering with evidence and theft by receiving stolen property, the GBI states that additional arrests are anticipated.

However, the GBI did not specifically state how Harvard is connected to the case or if the vehicles were specifically recovered from his home. However, the release does indicate some connection as part of the agency’s ongoing updates on the Delgado murder.

More information is continuing to come from the GBI and local authorities from the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office in this ongoing investigation. FYN will continue to update the story as more information becomes available.

GBI searches for new person of interest in Delgado murder

Featured News, Featured Stories, News
person of interest

CHERRY LOG, Ga. – Today the GBI released a video pointing out a specific person of interest that they are searching for.

The GBI is requesting the public’s assistance in identifying and locating the woman in this video.

According to the GBI’s Press Release, the woman is one of the last people to interact with the victim, Rossana Delgado. This video was noted in other reports and was taken on April 16, 2021. As one of the final people to see Delgado, GBI are seeking more information. The GBI has identified four suspects and has already released information seeking the identity of an unknown fifth suspect.

Now, this person of interest could have vital information on the case, the GBI is asking that anyone with information call the GBI Tipline at 1-800-597-TIPS(8477), report the information online at https://gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online, or by downloading the mobile app, See Something Send Something.

Pickens County Man Arrested for the Sexual Exploitation of Children

News, Press Release
sexual exploitation

Jasper, GA (February 8, 2021) – On Thursday, February 4, 2021, Pickens County resident, Danny Wright, age 57, was charged with one count of Sexual Exploitation of Children (Possession of Child Sexual Abuse Material) and three counts of Sexual Exploitation of Children (Distribution of Child Sexual Abuse Material) by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes (CEACC) Unit. The GBI CEACC Unit began an investigation into Wright’s online activity after receiving a Cybertip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) regarding the possession and distribution of suspected child pornography by Wright via the internet. This investigation led to a search warrant at Wright’s home in Jasper, Georgia, and the arrest of Wright on February 4, 2021. The GBI was assisted in the execution of the search warrant by the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office. Evidence from the search warrant conducted on February 4, 2021, led to additional criminal charges against Wright on February 5, 2021. On February 5, 2021, Wright was charged with Child Molestation and Invasion of Privacy.

Wright is currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail.

This investigation is part of the ongoing effort by the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, housed within the GBI’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit, to identify those involved in the child pornography trade. The ICAC Program, created by the U.S. Department of Justice, was developed in response to the increasing number of children and teenagers using the Internet, the proliferation of child pornography, and the heightened online activity by predators searching for unsupervised contact with underage victims.

Anyone with information about other cases of child exploitation is asked to contact the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit at 404-270-8870. Tips can also be submitted by calling 1-800-597-TIPS(8477), online at https://gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online, or by downloading the See Something, Send Something mobile app.

Pickens County Man Arrested for the Sexual Exploitation of Children

News, Press Release
sexual exploitation

Jasper, GA (February 8, 2021) – On Thursday, February 4, 2021, Pickens County resident, Danny Wright, age 57, was charged with one count of Sexual Exploitation of Children (Possession of Child Sexual Abuse Material) and three counts of Sexual Exploitation of Children (Distribution of Child Sexual Abuse Material) by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes (CEACC) Unit. The GBI CEACC Unit began an investigation into Wright’s online activity after receiving a Cybertip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) regarding the possession and distribution of suspected child pornography by Wright via the internet. This investigation led to a search warrant at Wright’s home in Jasper, Georgia, and the arrest of Wright on February 4, 2021. The GBI was assisted in the execution of the search warrant by the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office. Evidence from the search warrant conducted on February 4, 2021, led to additional criminal charges against Wright on February 5, 2021. On February 5, 2021, Wright was charged with Child Molestation and Invasion of Privacy.

Wright is currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail.

This investigation is part of the ongoing effort by the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, housed within the GBI’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit, to identify those involved in the child pornography trade. The ICAC Program, created by the U.S. Department of Justice, was developed in response to the increasing number of children and teenagers using the Internet, the proliferation of child pornography, and the heightened online activity by predators searching for unsupervised contact with underage victims.

Anyone with information about other cases of child exploitation is asked to contact the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit at 404-270-8870. Tips can also be submitted by calling 1-800-597-TIPS(8477), online at https://gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online, or by downloading the See Something, Send Something mobile app.

Authorities arrest alleged child molestation suspect

Feature News, Featured, Featured News, Featured Stories
Michael Case

JASPER, Ga. – According to reports from Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), a fugitive, Michael Case, was located and arrested on the evening of August 8.

The 37-year-old, white male led authorities on a two-day hunt with multiple law enforcement agencies working together to locate the suspect. Local agencies and the GBI took to social media asking for the public’s help in finding Case on Saturday, August 8.

Case

Michael Travis Case was arrested in Fannin County, Ga.

Arrest warrants were issued over the weekend as authorities were seeking Case for aggravated child molestation, incest, and statutory rape charges. Authorities had requested help from the public for information or whereabouts him.

However, early this morning, August 9, authorities updated social media posts saying that Case had been apprehended. Pickens County Sheriff’s Office added that he was in custody in Fannin County, where he was last seen.

According to GBI, they were requested to aid Pickens County Sheriff’s Office in a child abuse investigation on August 4, 2020. That investigation is still ongoing. However, warrants were issued for him and authorities began the search later in the week.

Efforts involved Sheriff’s Offices from several counties including Cherokee County, Fannin County, Gilmer County, and Pickens County alongside the Georgia Department of Corrections and GBI.

Case is a Gilmer County resident but was last seen in Blue Ridge as authorities said when beginning the search. He was apprehended late on August 8, 2020.

****UPDATE: Michael Case was arrested on the evening of August 8.****

WANTED: Arrest warrants have been issued for…

Posted by Georgia Bureau of Investigation on Saturday, August 8, 2020

Fetch Your News will update this story as more information becomes available. Please remember that all individuals are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Arrests made in drug busts with international ties in Pickens

Featured, Featured Stories, News, Police & Government
drug bust

A single, anonymous tip led to local, state, and federal authorities to confiscating 137 kilograms of methamphetamine valued at more than $1-million, and charges brought against 47 people, several from Pickens County, including the drug broker in the middle of it.

As a result of a 9-month investigation known as “Operation The Real McCoy,” the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad (CMANS), and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) served 47 arrest warrants for multiple charges including gang and drug related offenses.

“This is the largest bust I can recall,” said Pickens County Sheriff, Donny Craig.

drug bust

More than $1-million in meth were confiscated during the multi-agency “The Real McCoy” operation. A Pickens County man is charged with brokering the drugs between Mexican gangs and street level dealers.

In September 2019, Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad (CMANS) agents began an investigation into a supply chain of methamphetamine into Cherokee County.  The initial investigations led CMANS agents to DeKalb and Gwinnett counties and members of the Ghostface Gangsters.

Phil Price of CMANS, which serves Pickens and Cherokee counties, said they discovered the trafficking was originating in Dekalb and Gwinnett counties and upon learning many of those involved were gang members, they partnered with the state agency’s Gang Task Force.

John Melvin, Assistant Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, named 20 agencies involved in the investigation, which is still on-going.

It’s critical that the agencies work together, said Robert Hammer, Deputy Special Agent in Charge at Homeland Security Investigations Atlanta office.

“The investigation originally started into Ghost Face Killers and Gangster Disciples and as the investigation progressed, we were able to expand the network and see the Mexican affiliated gangs such as Sureños 13,” said Hammer.

With American-based gangs working cooperatively with Mexican gangs to bring drugs in and sell them, law enforcement has to pool their resources in order to combat them, he said.

“As gangs merge, we need to merge our gangs as well,” said Hammer.

Craig said his office has only been involved with CMANS for a year, but this investigation alone has proven it’s a good partnership.

“I feel like we’ve made a big dent, not just in Pickens County, but all of North Georgia,” said Craig.

Based on the initial investigation, CMANS, the GBI Gang Task Force, and HSI conducted an intensive investigation into the drug trafficking and distribution organization involving Brannon McCoy, age 26, Michael  Hazelwood, age 45, and Tricia Setser, age 38, who are traffickers of methamphetamine operating within numerous counties in Georgia including Sumter, Effingham, Fulton, Clayton, DeKalb, Cobb, Cherokee, Gilmer, and Pickens.  The investigation revealed a network involving members of the Ghostface Gangsters, the Gangster Disciples, and the Sureños.

McCoy acted as a broker from inside the State Prison Camp in Sumter County between drug traffickers in Mexico and the street level dealers in Georgia, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The name of the operation became known as “The Real McCoy.” Investigators were able to monitor McCoy and from there, identify sources of supply, leading to some of the day’s arrests.

Price said McCoy was one of the main players and is from Pickens County. “His family is here. We followed  the trail of money through here and also several people involved are also from Pickens County.”

The case will be tried in Pickens County and is a case District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee is looking forward to trying.

drug bust

The Pickens County Sheriff’s Department, working with CMANS, GBI, and Homeland Security charged 47 people, several from Pickens County, with trafficking meth.

“(It will require) a lot work to get the case prepared and ready for trial,” said Sosebee. “(The agencies) have worked very well together with our office, so we are looking forward to proceeding with the case from a prosecution standpoint.”

Craig said that while the bust is monumental, it is still on-going.

Agencies involved in the investigation were the CMANS, the GBI Gang Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations, the Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, Pickens Sheriff’s Office, Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, Georgia Department of Corrections, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Barrow Sheriff’s Office, the Gordon County Drug Task Force, Gwinnett Gang Task Force and Special Investigation Section, DeKalb District Attorney’s Office, the Cobb PD and District Attorney’s Office, the Clayton SO and District Attorney’s Office, the Apex Unit from Atlanta PD, the West Metro Regional Drug Enforcement Office, the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office, the Georgia National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office.

The GBI Gang Task Force is made up of GBI Agents, task force agents from the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, the Atlanta Police Department, the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, the Georgia National Guard Counter Drug Task Force and the United States Department of Homeland Security/Homeland Security Investigations.

The Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad is a joint task force working in Cherokee County and Pickens County to investigate drug related violations. Participating agencies include the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, the Pickens Sheriff’s Office, the Canton Police Department, the Woodstock Police Department, the Holly Springs Police Department, the Ball Ground Police Department, the Cherokee County Marshal’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office for the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit, the District Attorney’s Office for the Appalachian Judicial Circuit and the Georgia State Patrol. Citizens may call in tips anonymously to (770) 345-7920 or may speak to an agent by calling (678) 493-7625.

 

Arrests

The following individuals were arrested on June 24, 2020:

  1. Erik Noe Fuentes Escobar, 26, charged in Barrow County, GA with conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
  2. Kevin Vega-Santana, 18, charged with trafficking methamphetamine in Fulton County, GA.
  3. Artemio Maldonado Santana, 28, charged with trafficking methamphetamine in Fulton County, GA.
  4. Elvis Maldonado-Santana, 21, charged with trafficking methamphetamine in Fulton County, GA.
  5. Buford Smith, 68, charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in Pickens County, GA.
  6. Leah Thompson, 31, charged with possession of methamphetamine in Pickens County, GA.
  7. Joseph Arp, 50, charged with possession of methamphetamine in Pickens County, GA.
  8. Wendy Kirby, 44, charged with obstruction in Pickens County, GA.
  9. Tracy Kirby, 42, charged with obstruction in Pickens County, GA.
  10. William Ryder, 45 charged with obstruction in Pickens County, GA.
  11. Ashley Foster, 31, charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of a Schedule IV substance in Pickens County, GA.
  12. Christopher Mountain 47, charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of a Schedule IV substance in Pickens County, GA.
  13. Marjorie Brown, 61, charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in Pickens County, GA.

The following were charged with Violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in Pickens County as part of “Operation The Real McCoy” and were already in custody or a fugitive:

  1. Tanner Burnell, 31, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail
  2. Donnie Chastain, 47, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail
  3. Cindy McCoy-Wilson, 49, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail
  4. Christopher Morris, 34, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail
  5. Allyson Moyer, 41, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail
  6. Jesse Rodriguez, 22, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail
  7. David Skinner, 46, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail
  8. Amanda Vliek, 37, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail
  9. Brandon Sanchez Laney, 32, also charged with Violation of Georgia Street Gang and Terrorism Act, currently in custody at the Cherokee County Jail
  10. Tyler Morris, 28, currently in custody at the Cherokee County Jail
  11. Carl Welchel, 49, currently in custody at the Cherokee County Jail
  12. Tricia Setser, 38, currently in custody at the Cherokee County Jail
  13. Casey Plumb, 31, currently in custody at the Cherokee County Jail
  14. Michael Hazelwood, 45, currently in custody at Cherokee County Jail
  15. Josh Phillips, 23, currently in custody at the Gwinnett County Jail
  16. Josh David Collins, 37, currently in custody of GDC
  17. William Jamie Fields, 27, currently in custody of GDC
  18. Brannon Chase McCoy, 26, currently in custody of GDC
  19. Terrell Jamar Owens, 38, currently in custody of GDC
  20. Bryan Thomas Pitt, 36, currently in custody of GDC
  21. Kevin Rodriguez, 24, currently in custody of GDC
  22. Joseph Seaborn III, 47, currently in custody of GDC
  23. Dewane Cook, 46, currently in custody in Monroe County, TN
  24. Orvelin Garcia Penaloza, 25, currently a fugitive from justice
  25. Evan Dannny Taylor Yancey, currently a fugitive from justice
  26. Dillon Thompson, 40, currently a fugitive from justice
  27. Savannah Newton, 22, currently a fugitive from justice
  28. Tracey Shirley, 47, currently a fugitive from justice
  29. Brittany Owen, 41, also charged with Violation of Georgia Street Gang and Terrorism Act, currently a fugitive from justice
  30. Dennis Debord, 39, currently a fugitive from justice
  31. Jessica Darby, 33, currently a fugitive from justice
  32. Derick Barker, 35, currently a fugitive from justice
  33. Justin Barker, 31, currently a fugitive from justice
  34. Mindy Skelton, 38, currently a fugitive from justice

 

<div style=”float: left; margin-right: 20px;”>

https://youtu.be/8g3fHyxg29c

</div>

 

 

Read the Pickens County Jail bookings here.

Transcript of Press Conference

Phil Price of the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad, serving Cherokee and Pickens County. In  September 2019, we got information that led us into an investigation into methamphetamine trafficking that was taking place in Cherokee and Pickens County. It was originating in Dekalb and Gwinnett counties. As we began to conduct the investigation, we determined that a majority of the people involved were members of gangs here in Georgia. So we partnered with the the GBI’s task force to further this investigation and I’ll turn this over to the GBI.

John Melvin, Assistant Director of the GBI, I’d like to thank you for being here for this wonderful, memorial event.With over 70,000 gang  members state-wide, it is essential that in order to fight this occupation of gang members that we have cooperation between the many agencies. In that regard I need to take time to thank the many agencies that have brought us here today for this drug and gang bust. The following agencies assisted us: the CMANS unit, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations Gang Task Force, Homeland Security investigations, the Applachian Judicial Circuit whose district attorneys  will take this case to trial. Thank you. the Pickens County Sheriff’s Department, the Department of Corrections, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, Bartow County Sheriff’s office, Gordon County Task Force, Gwinnett County Task Force, the Special Investigations Section of the Gwinnett County Gang Task Force, the Dekalb County District Attorney’s office, the Cobb County Police Department, the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, Clayton County Sheriff’s Office, Clayton County District Attorney’s office, the APEX Unit of hte Atlanta Police Department, the West Metro Drug Enforcement Office, the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office, the Georgia National Guard, as well as the Drug Task Force of the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Department. All of these agencies in their way, helped us with this investigation and today, we’re happy to announce 137 kilos of methamphetamine are off the streets, taken us part of the multi-jurisdiction cooperative effort to take down members of our Ghost Face Gang that is in this state, as well Gangster Disciples. The gangs are cooperating but so are the agencies that stand against this evil. Those agencies that have helped us out and hte agents that are on the street,  from the bottom of my heart, thank you and God bless you.

Robert Hammer, special agent with HSI investigations in Atlanta: I just want to commend the Sheriff of Pickens County and all the agencies that John mentioned on GBI’s behalf. When I committed to the director a year ago that we wanted to partner with GBI on the governor’s gang task force, this was exactly the type of partnership I envisioned and this is a great result for this task force. It’s one of the largest for the task force and there are certainly more to come. From our aspect on the federal side of these investigations, our focus is on the transnational side.  We look to add value to and support these local partners in being successful. We’re looking at multiple gangs collaborating to import these narcotics into the region. specifically Surenos working with Ghost Face and Gangster Disciples. Mexico continues to be a major source of supply of methamphetamine  in the Metro Atlanta area and certainly here in Pickens Counthy. The scourge that drugs and the gang cause this community is no more prevalent today than over 130 kilos of meth off the streets as well as multiple firearms. We’re proud to work with GBI and the governor’s gang task force and to more contributions.

Phil Price: the initial investigation was just a tip that we got and as we investigated, we saw so many people who were interacting with the suspects that we had. We also developed information about the gang aspect and at that time it was on Ghost Face gangsters. We got the GBI gang task force involved, started doing very intensive surveillance, watching these people for long periods of time and learned in fact there were three different gangs. Thanks to the GBI gang task force, we were able to further this investigation into areas we were not well versed in. This investigation was initiated just before COVID became a problem and we had to deal with all those secondary issues, how we interacted with other people. A very complex investigation, a very intense investigation. I think everyone here tonight can go home and rest better.

drug bust

Christopher Scott Morris, 34, Jasper, Georgia

drug bust

Cindy Marie McCoy, 49,
Jasper, Georgia

drug bust

David Robert Skinner, 46,
Canton, Georgia

drug bust

Tanner Evin Burnell, 35,
Ellijay, Georgia

drug bust

Donnie Lee Chastain, 47,
Talking Rock, Georgia

Amanda Vliek, 37,
Kennesaw, Georgia

Marjorie Sue Brown, 62,
Talking Rock, Georgia

Ashley Elizabeth Foster, 31,
Talking Rock, Georgia

Tracey Rena Kirby, 46,
Jasper, Georgia

drug bust

Wendy Elisha Kirby, 44,
Jasper, Georgia

drug bust

Jesse Rodriguez, 22,
Austell, Georgia

 

 

GBI Seeks Public’s Assistance in 2011 Toccoa Murder Investigation

Featured Stories

Toccoa, GA (March 5, 2020) – This month marks the nine year anniversary of the murder of
Robert Lee Simmons, Jr. The GBI is seeking the public’s assistance with any information about
Simmons’ last days and his murder. Simmons, 46, was found dead at his home at the Glendale
Apartments on Norman Drive on March 1, 2011 by a family member. The Toccoa Police
Department responded to the scene after receiving a 911 call. Simmons’ death was determined to
be a homicide.

This case has remained active for the past nine years and both the GBI and Toccoa Police
Department continue to work to solve this case. Recently, investigators have received new
promising leads in this investigation and are asking for help from those who knew Simmons.
Even the smallest detail may help police with this investigation.
Both law enforcement and Robert Simmons’ family and friends implore anyone with information
to contact the GBI or Toccoa Police Department. GBI Special Agent Shilo Crane is the case
agent and may be reached at 706-348-4866. Tips can also be made on the GBI Tipline at 800-
597-8477 or online submissions may be made on the GBI website: www.gbi.georgia.gov. The
Toccoa Police Department may be contacted at 706-282-3244.

Georgia Criminal Street Gang Database Operational

Featured, State & National

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

@GBI_GA
Contact: Nelly Miles – Public Affairs Director
[email protected]

Decatur, GA (February 4, 2020) – Through the collaborative efforts of the Georgia Bureau of
Investigation (GBI), the Department of Community Supervision (DCS), and the Georgia
Department of Corrections (GDC), the Georgia Criminal Street Gang Database (GCSGD) is now
operational. The GCSGD is a statewide repository and intelligence database that contains
information about various criminal street gangs, criminal street gang members, and associates
and criminal street gang activities.

As outlined in O.C.GA. §16-15-11, the purpose of the GCSGD is:
 to expand the recognition and identification of criminal street gangs, their
members/associates and criminal street gang activities,
 to increase officer safety by improving the sharing of information among multiple
jurisdictions using computer intelligence database technology,
 to enhance community security through the prosecution of criminal street gangs and their
members/associates.

The statute for the GCSGD was enacted in 2010. Under Governor Kemp’s administration, the
implementation of this database has been made a priority. The following agencies participated
in the pilot program: DCS, GDC, Hall County Sheriff’s Office, Morrow Police Department,
South Fulton Police Department, Cobb County Police Department, Cobb County Sheriff’s
Office, and the GBI. The statistics associated with the data remain fluid; but as of today, the
system contains over 100 gangs and over 17,000 gang members &amp; associates.

All state, county, and municipal law enforcement, prosecution and corrections agencies, offices,
and departments may timely furnish information acquired relating to criminal street gangs and
criminal gang activity to the GBI to be included in the GCSGD. To become a participating
agency/authorized user, please email [email protected] requesting access and to complete the
necessary training.

Back to Top