Federal prosecutors in Southeast Georgia announced Wednesday a massive drug trafficking indictment, charging 76 people with operating a drug distribution network of opioids and other controlled substances in and around Brunswick’s Glynn County.
The Justice Department called it the largest indictment in the history of the Southern District of Georgia, which spans 43 counties and includes Savannah, Augusta and Brunswick.
“Make no mistake: illegal distribution of drugs is not a victimless crime,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia David Estes said at a Wednesday news conference at the Glynn County Police Department headquarters.
Two of the defendants face additional charges of distributing fentanyl and methamphetamine that prosecutors say resulted in the overdose deaths of Rebecca Cain of LaGrange, Michael Logue of Brunswick and Dylan Jones of Brunswick.
Two other drugs are named in the drug trafficking conspiracy: heroin and alprazolam, the generic form of Xanax.
The primary conspiracy charge against each defendant carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison.
FBI Atlanta Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jermaine Deans said that the operation — which included nearly two dozen federal, state and local law enforcement agencies — seized 325 grams of fentanyl, an amount that has the potential to kill more than 160,000 people, according to the DEA.
Additionally, 43 firearms were seized, a number that prosecutors say is expected to increase as the case proceeds.
“Residents are safer today, even more than they were last night, with these criminals removed from the streets,” Deans said. “This operation will prevent others from feeling the pain and damage this conspiracy has already inflicted.”
Estes urged parents to educate their children that lethal opioids can be disguised and sold on the street as seemingly harmless drugs such as Xanax and Adderall.
Prosecutors say that some of the drug trafficking occurred within Georgia state prisons, aided by at least one corrections officer, who is named in the indictment.
The Justice Department has dubbed the investigation as Operation Ghost Busted, so named after the white supremacist gang Ghost Face Gangsters, which has members included in the indictment. Other gangs were allegedly involved, including the Aryan Brotherhood, Bloods and Gangster Disciples.
More than three dozen additional defendants face state charges as a result of the investigation.
This story comes to Fresh Take Georgia through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a nonprofit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.