TOCCOA - A three-month undercover investigation into illegal drug activities in Toccoa motels culminated in numerous arrests Wednesday.
And those illegal drug activities could cost motel owners their lodging establishments if they don't take steps to stop drug sales.
"We started noticing a pattern where individuals were going from one motel to another motel renting rooms for the sole purpose to do nothing more than to sell or use narcotics," said Toccoa Police Chief Tim Jarrell.
On Wednesday, agents of the Mountain Narcotics Criminal Investigation and Suppression Team, working in conjunction with Toccoa Police Department, the Habersham County Sheriff's Office K-9 Unit, and Stephens County Sheriff's Office obtained and attempted to serve the warrants related to the 18 successful undercover buys conducted during the operation, known as "Take Back Toccoa".
Arrest warrants were obtained for the following:
* Quamaine Johnson, 20, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana;
* Gilbert Martin, 37, distribution of marijuana;
* Timothy Michael Mroz (also known as "Little E"), 27, distribution of methamphetamine;
* Roy Gene Gibson, 47, distribution of methamphetamine;
* Shane Lashun Lacy, 29, distribution of methamphetamine;
* Breann Coalley, 22, distribution of methamphetamine;
* Jeremy Mans, 34, distribution of methamphetamine;
* Dustin Eli Gunn, 31, distribution of methamphetamine;
* Randall Gibson, 33, distribution of methamphetamine;
* Victoria Raney, 24, distribution of methamphetamine;
* Tiffany Hornick, 20, two counts distribution of methamphetamine;
* Michael Tyler Ritenour, 26, possession of methamphetamine;
* Alvin Myers, 40, distribution of marijuana, distribution of methamphetamine;
* Terrell Cunningham, 28, distribution of marijuana;
* Brandon Vinson, 22, distribution of methamphetamine; and
* Jerry Alexander (aka "Chicago"), 38, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute,
While agents were serving warrants Wednesday, three people at the motels were determined to be in possession of drugs and were arrested. They include:
* Alexander, who also was charged with distribution of marijuana;
* Billy Clarence Roach, 54, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana;
* Jerry Woody, 41, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.
Additional warrants are being sought on Tammy York for distribution of methamphetamine; Nick Beltz for distribution of methamphetamine; and an individual that goes by the nickname "New York" for distribution of marijuana.
Jarrell asks anyone who knows the whereabouts of Tammy York or Nick Beltz, or who knows the man with the street name "New York" to call Toccoa Police Department at (706) 282-3244.
"Practically every crime committed here in Toccoa has some aspect relating to drugs," Jarrell said. "For far too long, these hotel establishments have served as 'hotbeds' for both those involved in the demand side and those involved in the supply side of illegal drug activity.
"We have researched and looked into the cases - incidents such as robberies, rape, theft, burglaries and at some points also our murders - and we keep finding one key element that seems to always be relevant, and that is drugs," he said.
Jarrell said city commissioners and city management have adopted goals and objects to clean up the city, both in appearance and with regards to crime.
"This operation is one aspect of a much larger law enforcement campaign aimed as enhancing the quality of life for all that live, work in, and visit our great city," Jarrell said. "By taking aggressive, proactive measures to arrest and successfully prosecute those using and selling illegal drugs, we at the police department can do our part in bringing these goals and objectives to fruition."
Wednesday's arrests were made following successful drug buys in rooms at five hotels: Country Hearth Inn on North Broad Street, Toccoa Motel on West Currahee Street, Host Inn on Highway 17, Relax Inn on Felton Drive, and The Budget Inn on West Currahee Street.
"We must also take steps to ensure that the owners of these establishments take responsibility for what is occurring on their property, and that they do their part in putting a stop to it," Jarrell said. "For this reason, I have personally served a Notice of Illegal Drug Activity/Potential Property Seizure letter to each of these motel or hotel owners or their managers with a letter addressed to the owner telling them that they have to cease their way of conducting business, and if they do not we're going to seek avenues through the court system to seize their property."
Jarrell said the letter accomplishes two purposes:
* It puts the owners on notice there is drug activity occurring at their establishment.
* It notifies the owners that if the activity is allowed to continue and law enforcement can prove additional drug activity going forward, police will work with the district attorney's office to initiate legal action to seize the property.
Jarrell reports that in addition to the arrests, agents plan to seize $675 in U.S. currency and a Chevrolet Caprice.
"I am very proud of the men and women who make up our narcotics team for the Mountain Judicial Circuit, which includes Habersham, Rabun and Stephens," Jarrell said. "Because of their work, I'm not able to identify them by name but I want people to know and I want the officers to know that I'm very proud of the hard work and dedication they give to not only me but the other people who make up this narcotics team, but I'm really extremely proud of the officer who headed this investigation up and the hard work and the long hours that they put in for the City of Toccoa. We can't forget the men and women who actually do the work."
The Taking Back Toccoa operation is ongoing.
"I am not saying Toccoa-Stephens County has a larger drug problem than any other community," Jarrell said. "What I'm saying is that the police department and sheriff's office are not going to tolerate drug sales and drug activity in our community. Period."
Jarrell said the police department relies on information from the public to help them perform their duties.
Anyone with information about illegal drug activity in Toccoa can call (706) 282-3244, or if the crime is in progress, they can call 9-1-1.