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Saturday July 11th, 2020 12:53AM

'Operation Wu Block' yields 68 meth, heroin indictments so far

By Rob Moore Reporter
  Contact Editor

An interagency effort targeting large-scale drug dealers is continuing to result in criminal charges and the seizure of drugs.

“Operation Wu Block” is an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force-led investigation that is part of “Operation Crystal Shield”, a national DEA operation first announced on Feb. 20 and already has resulted in 68 indictments.

The investigation is focused on eight main methamphetamine trafficking transportation hubs across the nation, including Atlanta. Both operations are ongoing, and more arrests are expected.

The investigation has resulted in the seizure of more than 58 kilograms of methamphetamine, more than two kilograms of heroin, 31 firearms, and $56,000, as well as multiple indictments covering 68 defendants.

Charges brought thus far include conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, distribution of controlled substances, and firearm possession, with penalties ranging from five years up to life in prison, depending on the charge.

“Law enforcement in Georgia are aggressively working to find and arrest individuals distributing dangerous drugs in our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Charlie Peeler. “This investigation is a textbook example of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies working together in the Middle District of Georgia to stem the flow of illegal narcotics and the severe damage they cause within our communities. Drug traffickers beware; law enforcement will find you, and you will be prosecuted.”  

Nineteen federal indictments have been returned by federal grand juries with a total of 68 defendants criminally charged in the Middle District of Georgia. Some of the charges include conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine with a maximum sentence of life in prison; conspiracy with intent to distribute heroin with a maximum sentence of 40 years imprisonment; possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine or heroin with sentences ranging from a maximum 20 years to life in prison; distribution of methamphetamine or heroin with sentences ranging from 20 years to life in prison, depending on the amount of controlled substances charged; possession of a firearm in relation to drug trafficking with a maximum sentence of life in prison.

“Drug traffickers ultimately bring misery and destruction to our communities,” said Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division. “DEA and its law enforcement partners take an oath to protect and serve those communities by removing dangerous criminals from the streets. The collection of law enforcement agencies and the subsequent prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office allowed DEA to mount an aggressive assault against a well-established methamphetamine distribution network.”

Defendants indicted in the investigation thus far include:

  • Joey Arguelles, 24, of Hart County,
  • Frankie Baza, 32, of Gwinnett County,
  • Jason Monroe Bellew, 35, of Elbert County,
  • Byron Bennett, 41, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Peggy Bentley, 48, of Oconee County,
  • Latasha Bishop, 33, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Chuckferrio Booker, 30, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Benjamin Bray, 23, of Madison County,
  • Haley Carter, 21, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Jason Casey, 38, of Oconee County,
  • Justin Clouse, 38, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Joshua Wayne Coker, 38, of Hart County,
  • Larry Thomas Coker, 34, of Oconee County,
  • Steven Mark Cook, 32, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Mishel Cruz Sanchez, 29, of Gwinnett County,
  • Ashley Davis, 26, of Madison County,
  • Jasmin Duarte, 26, of Oconee County,
  • Crystal Eddy, 38, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Jeri Renee Elliott, 49, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Juan Espino, 45, of Oconee County,
  • Angela Fain, 48, of Franklin County,
  • William Fain, 55, of Franklin County,
  • Thomas Joey Fowler of Hart County,
  • Jennifer Gee, 33, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Howard Burnham Gowen, 50, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Jonathan Green, 34, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Cierra Gresham, 23, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Maurice Hancock, 46, of Barrow County,
  • Lazaro Hernandez, 28, of Cobb County,
  • Bruce Hicks, 39, of Madison County,
  • Kristy Lynn Houseman, 40, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • William Mathew Howard, 45, of Arlington, Va.,
  • Russel Huckeba, 40, of Gwinnett County,
  • Kenneth Lee Jarrett, 59, of Pickens County,
  • Ronald Kelley, 49, of Madison County,
  • Jessica Kraps, 35, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Amy Laura Leonard, 51, of Johnson City, Tenn.,
  • Dwayne Maddox, 34, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Ashley Michelle Manley, 25, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Esmeralda Mata-Bustos, 38, of Gwinnett County,
  • Daniel Keith McCullough, 27, of Hart County,
  • Kyle Melton, 34, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Andrew Moon, 31, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Chandler Moore, 35, of Bristol, Tenn.,
  • Rodney Lewis Moore, 33, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Scott Moore, 39, of Hart County,
  • Mechelle Morris, 44, of Oglethorpe County,
  • Madlyn Vista Mull, 21, of Hart County,
  • Gregory Mulligan, 29, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Michelle Mutch, 27, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Greyson Newsome, 31, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Audrey Lynn Paige, 30, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Cindy Isamara Ramos, 28, of Cobb County,
  • Mathew Shaver, 43, of Oglethorpe County,
  • Mario Alberto Silverio, 40, of Cobb County,
  • Shana Leeanne Smith, 31, of Oconee County,
  • Kenneth Sterling, 50, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Pamela Lynn Sutton, 38, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Steven Turbeville, 38, of Barrow County,
  • Amaro Turrubiartes, 22, of Gwinnett County,
  • Cecil Wampler, 35, of Bristol, Tenn.,
  • Travis Wheeler, 36, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • April Wofford, 29, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Garrett Wolford, 33, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • Darien Woodrum, 27, of Athens-Clarke County,
  • James Andrew Young, 26, of Oglethorpe County,
  • Ricky Keith Young, 32, of Walton County, and
  • David Zavala, 28, of Gordon County.

“The removal of drugs, guns and money and 68 defendants from our streets will have an immediate impact on the safety of our citizens, thanks to a two-year cooperative effort with our federal, state and local partners,” said Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta. “This case is another example of the commitment to dismantle organizations that wreak havoc in our
communities and endanger the people who live in them.”

An indictment is an allegation of criminal conduct, and all the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt, officials said.

The two-year Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation is being conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Macon Resident Office, FBI Middle Georgia Safe Streets Gang Task Force, Athens-Clarke County Police Department, Clarke County Sheriff's Office, Hart County Sheriff’s Office, Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, Oglethorpe County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia Department of Corrections and Northeast Regional Drug Task Force in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia. These agencies continue to target large-scale drug trafficking organizations operating in northeast Georgia and throughout the State of Georgia.

“Hart County played an intricate part in kicking off ‘Operation Wu Block’ by providing key informants,” said Hart County Sheriff Mike Cleveland.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, U.S. News, Local/State News, Georgia News
  • Associated Tags: Methamphetamine, heroin, indictment, arrests, Operation Wu Block, Drug Enforcement Agency
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