LYONS, Ga. (WSAV) – More than two dozen defendants face federal charges in a multi-agency operation, authorities announced Wednesday in Toombs County.
Dubbed Operation Ace in the Hole, the year and a half long investigation netted 61 counts, 20 plus firearms, and drugs with a street value in the millions.
Local, state and federal agents were involved in the operation targeting a gang-related drug trafficking ring in the Vidalia area.
“We’re here as both a celebration of accomplishment and as a warning that with the united effort with these and other agencies here today we will continue to take down drug traffickers and violent criminal street games to make our neighborhoods safer,” said United States Attorney Bobby Christine with the Southern District of Georgia alongside law enforcement officials involved Operation Ace in the Hole.
Officials said the investigation first started as a small drug case by law enforcement in Lyons and Toombs counties, adding that neighbors were instrumental in bringing a spotlight to the crimes.
“They couldn’t let their children go out and play. They were scared to come out themselves, especially at night,” said Toombs County Sheriff Alvie Knight. “They were scared to even go out and sit on the front porch, afraid of getting shot.”
Raymonia Apartments in Vidalia is just one of the places that investigators say members of the “gangster disciples” were using as a headquarters to push massive amounts of cocaine, marijuana, pills, and even gallons of liquid codeine across the state of Georgia.
The members of the suspected gang were allegedly involved in creating a distribution center of illegal activity which took their product not just to locals, but to other gang members as far away as Atlanta.
The team on this bust says this is just the beginning of the war on gangs in Georgia.
“Take a look around at all the guys standing here. This is how you win the war on drugs and gangs,” said Middle Judicial Circuit District Attorney Hayward Altman. “The only way you can lose the battle is to quit fighting. You win it by fighting and that’s what we will do.”
“Our gang is bigger than your gang, our gang is better than your gang, and our gang is tougher than your gang,” Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds warned.
This isn’t finished yet. Thirty more suspects are expected to face state charges in connection with this operation.
Involved in the investigation are the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, the Toombs County Sheriff’s Office, the Lyons Police Department, the Oconee Drug Task Force and the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office.
The case is being prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys E. Greg Gilluly Jr. and Joseph McCool.
“The battle is won when all these agencies federal, local state work together in addition to the prosecutor’s office working together to prosecute on a state or federal level,” said FBI Special Agent Marcus Kirkland. “That is how we win the battle.”