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Home  |  News  |  More than 100 Indicted in Midlands Drug Case - 42 Still Being Sought

More than 100 Indicted in Midlands Drug Case - 42 Still Being Sought
Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fugitives Still Being Sought (PDF)

COLUMBIA, SC - United States Attorney W. Walter Wilkins announced today at a press conference that six federal indictments were unsealed today in which 108 individuals were charged with various federal drug, weapon, and immigration violations. Joining Mr. Wilkins for the announcement was FBI Special Agent in Charge Dave Thomas, US Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ken Burkhart, SLED Director Reggie Lloyd, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, Lexington County Sheriff James Metts, and Columbia Police Chief Tandy Carter.

Agents began executing arrest warrants early this morning, and those taken into custody began appearing in federal court in Columbia this afternoon.

In May 2008, the FBI-led Columbia Violent Gang Task Force began an investigation into street gang and drug trafficking activity in the Ridgewood neighborhood of Columbia. Agents made numerous controlled purchases of crack cocaine and eventually the FBI obtained court authorized wiretaps. Those wiretaps uncovered a vast drug conspiracy across the Midlands, leading to a group of Mexican drug suppliers operating in Lexington County. As the investigation continued, the Task Force learned that this drug cell was connected to other cells in Atlanta and North Carolina, who were also receiving their cocaine from Mexico.

In late spring, 18 individuals were arrested on these charges and a total of 9 federal search warrants were executed. Thus far, the investigation has resulted in the seizure of approximately $568,927 in cash, 18 kilograms of cocaine, 6 pounds of marijuana, ¼ kilogram of crack cocaine, and 33 firearms. Of those 18 individuals previously arrested, 11 are illegal aliens from Mexico.

Mr. Wilkins stated the individuals each face a mandatory minimum of ten years imprisonment and a maximum of life imprisonment and a fine of $4,000,000. Many of the individuals face substantially higher penalties due to prior felony drug convictions.

Mr. Wilkins stated that the case was investigated by agents of the FBI-led Columbia Violent Gang Task Force, which is comprised of agents from the FBI, Columbia Police Department, Richland County Sheriff's Department, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, and the South Carolina National Guard Counter Drug Unit. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also assisted the Task Force in this investigation. Mr. Wilkins stated that he has assigned the case to Assistant United States Attorneys Stacey D. Haynes and Mark C. Moore of the Columbia office for prosecution.

The United States Attorney stated that all charges in these Indictments are merely accusations and that all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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