A two-state enforcement effort Thursday led to a number of arrests for distribution of drugs in North Georgia and North Carolina.
“During the early morning hours of Thursday, April 26, officers with the Macon, Jackson and Rabun county sheriff’s offices, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, 30th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Franklin Police Department, and the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration executed search warrants and served arrest warrants on numerous individuals involved in distributing heroin and methamphetamine into our area,” according to a press release from Macon County, N.C., Sheriff Robert L. Holland.
“Named ‘Operation JAWbreaker’, the operation is aimed at dismantling a well-organized criminal enterprise involved in distributing large quantities of meth and heroin – not only in Macon County, but in Western North Carolina and North Georgia as well,” Holland’s statement reads.
Rabun County Sheriff Chad Nichols said his department was able to participate in the effort, and he credits the success of Operation JAWbreaker to interagency cooperation.
“This operation would not have been successful without the trust and teamwork that has been built through multi-agency and multi-state cooperation in the past,” Nichols said in a statement. “Sheriff Holland of Macon County, N.C., Sheriff Hall of Jackson County, N.C., and I recognize that the U.S. Highway 441 corridor allows these illegal drugs to be brought into our communities. We will continue our interdiction and investigative teamwork to rid our communities of this poison.”
Nichols praised the work of his office’s patrol and K-9 deputies and investigators for their work.
Holland said more than two dozen individuals were identified during the course of the investigation.
“Working together to undo this criminal enterprise, local, state and federal investigators gathered intelligence on multiple suspects and have been able to successfully obtain enough evidence to identify at least 25 individuals involved in the conspiracy of transporting, delivering, and/or selling heroin and methamphetamine throughout Macon and Jackson counties, as well as Rabun County,” Holland’s statement reads.
According to Holland, three of the 25 suspects were identified as co-conspirators and suppliers living in the Highlands and Franklin, N.C., area.
The name Operation JAWbreaker was an acronym created from the first names of those three alleged co-conspirators, said to be a main source of Macon County’s heroin and meth supply.
Three additional sources of suppliers living in the Atlanta area also were identified during the investigation as supplying Macon County, meaning drugs were passing through North Georgia to reach their destination, according to officials.
“Investigators spent hundreds of hours conducting surveillance in both Western North Carolina and Georgia, including the Atlanta area,” Holland’s statement reads.
Warrants for the Atlanta suspects will be issued and those individuals will be extradited to Macon County, N.C., upon their arrest.
“During the gathering of intelligence, investigators discovered that drug purchases and transactions were arranged by James Steele, Arthur Potts, or Wade Ennis, and that the three men made additional arrangements for those drugs to be transported back to our area for distribution,” Holland’s statement reads.
The investigation began in January 2017.
After the overdose death of a former Franklin High School student in 2017, investigators determined that some of the people identified in Operation JAWbreaker were with her at the time of her death.
“We did not forget about this beautiful young life and many times throughout this case investigators working on this operation have talked about her and others just like her,” Holland said in making Thursday’s announcement.
Holland said additional arrests will be made in connection with Operation JAWbreaker.
Authorities said names and information about those arrested and those at large but facing charges (considered “wanted”) will be released in the coming days.
“Today, because of the tireless work put in by all the agencies involved, three counties are safer,” Nichols’ statement concludes.