Posted on

Law Officers Intercept Contraband Apparently Bound for Area Prison

Law Officers Intercept Contraband   Apparently Bound for Area Prison
CONFISCATED - Area law enforcement confiscated various drugs, a drone, and electronic equipment during a road block. Two men from Savannah were charged with multiple counts and booked into the Telfair County Jail.
Law Officers Intercept Contraband   Apparently Bound for Area Prison
CONFISCATED - Area law enforcement confiscated various drugs, a drone, and electronic equipment during a road block. Two men from Savannah were charged with multiple counts and booked into the Telfair County Jail.

A regional multiagency meeting in Wheeler County on Friday, March 30, had some unexpected results as law enforcers attending the session later intercepted a large cache of illegal drugs and other items apparently bound for an area prison.

As a road check was set up Friday night at the intersection of U.S. Highways 280 and 44I outside McRae-Helena, officers encountered two men in a pickup truck with a drone clearly visible in the back seat of the vehicle, said Capt. J.C. Mancini of the Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office. A sweep of the truck by a Georgia State Patrol canine unit detected drugs, after which a search of the vehicle was conducted, Mancini said. Lawmen were surprised to discover multiple items ranging continued from page

from several types of illegal drugs, to a drone controller, mobile hotspots, and other digital devices. A check of one of the suspect’s phones revealed directions to an area prison, Mancini said.

The lawmen were in the area attending a regional meeting of law enforcement officers from 11 South and Middle Georgia counties hosted by Wheeler County Sheriff Randy Rigdon. The road block was set up in the evening after the meeting to check motorists for violations.

Arrested and booked into the Telfair County Jail were Vincent Lamont Branch and Robert Brandon Bryant, both of Savannah.

Branch was charged with one count of trafficking in cocaine/marijuana/ illegal drugs; 28 counts of giving convicts items without consent; and possession/ manufacturing/ selling/ purchase of marijuana.

Bryant was charged with two counts of trafficking in cocaine/marijuana/ illegal drugs.; 22 counts of giving convicts items without consent; two counts of possession/ manufacturing/ selling/purchase of marijuana ; possession of tools in the commission of a crime; one count of violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act.

Mancini said officers confiscated: 436 grams of cigarettes; 217 grams of methamphetamines; 31 grams of suspected Xanex pills; 24 grams of cocaine; 305 grams of tobacco; 24 grams of Ecstasy; one pound of marijuana; 14 lighters; 8 tubes of a bonding agent; 2 sets of digital scales; 12 packs of rolling paper; 4 mobile hot spots; 5 charging cords; 3 cell phones; 1 drone with controller; 6 drone batteries; 2 charging hubs; and $1,517 in cash.

The case is now under investigation by the Georgia Department of Corrections.

Participating in the continued from page

operation were the Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office; the Telfair County Sheriff’s Office; Ben Perdue with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, who was also representing the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety; the Alamo Police Department; the Toombs County Sheriff’s Office; the Georgia State Patrol; and the Soperton Police Department.

The law enforcement agencies meet each month for training, updates, and joint operations. During the March 30 road block, law enforcement also intercepted a suspect wanted on a warrant in Coffee County, as well as motorists driving without licenses and other violations.

Operation Skyhawk

The state of Georgia has been cracking down on contraband operations at prisons across the state in recent months.

Governor Brian P. Kemp announced on March 28 that, in a continuing investigative effort between the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Safe Streets Gang Task Force, search and arrest warrants were served at two locations in the Metro Atlanta area, effectively shutting down a sophisticated, multistate criminal enterprise that included civilians, inmates, and staff involved in contraband introduction into GDC facilities “Georgia will not tolerate those who put our communities at risk by trafficking drugs, weapons, and contraband both in and out of our correctional facilities,” said Governor Kemp said in a news release issued by his office. “I want to thank GDC Commissioner Tyrone Oliver, the hardworking men and women of the GDC, and all law enforcement who worked to shut these operations down and help keep both Georgians and our correctional facilities safe.”

Dubbed “Operation Skyhawk,” the monthslong investigation into contraband at GDC facilities revealed the use of drones to facilitate the introduction of contraband. That discovery led to the arrest of 150 suspects, including eight GDC employees who were immediately terminated. With a combined total of over 1,000 criminal charges stemming from contraband introduction, drug trafficking, and felons in possession of firearms, many of the individuals arrested will also be facing Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) charges and Participation in Criminal Gang Activity in multiple venues across the state, resulting in what will possibly be the largest Gang RICO in the state’s history.

“The success of ‘Operation Skyhawk’ should be a reminder to anyone – inside or outside our prisons – that we have zero tolerance and will take swift action against those who threaten the safe operations of our facilities and the safety of the public,” said Commissioner Oliver. “Our reach is far and wide, not just within the walls of our facilities, and I stand by my words from over a year ago, that this activity will not be tolerated. I am immensely proud of our agents for their commitment to seeing that these individuals are brought to justice,” continued Oliver.

Items that have been confiscated thus far during the operation include the following items, with a total combined street value of over $7 million: drones (87); weapons (22); contraband cell phones in facilities (273); civilian cell phones (180); tobacco (185 pounds); marijuana (67 pounds); methamphetamine (12 pounds); Ecstasy (51 pounds); cocaine (10 grams); various pills (90).

It is believed other states may also be affected by the same criminal enterprise, adding to the significance of the success of “Operation Skyhawk,” which would not have been possible without the assistance of hundreds of local law enforcement partners making traffic stops and responding to throwovers and contraband drops via drone at GDC facilities.

Georgia DOC facilities in this area include Telfair State Prison in McRae-Helena and Montgomery State Prison in Mount Vernon. Wheeler Correctional Facility, located outside of Alamo, is privately owned by Core Civic, but partners with the DOC.



DRUG SWEEP – A Georgia State Patrol canine unit performed a sweep of a vehicle with suspicious cargo during a road block outside of McRae-Helena on March 30. The stop resulted in the confiscation of a large cache of contraband apparently bound for an area prison.

Recent Death Notices