SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The final sentencing in Operation Stranded Bandit, a major methamphetamine trafficking operation, has come to a close. Nearly three dozen defendants were sent to prison after pleading guilty.

The last person to be sentenced was 32-year-old Kristin Sheppard, of Savannah, who was sentenced to nine years and three months in prison followed by five years of supervised release after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute five grams or more of methamphetamine, said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

“Our law enforcement partners built Operation Stranded Bandit on the foundation of prior investigations dismantling a network of drug traffickers operating inside and outside prisons to bring large quantities of methamphetamine to coastal Georgia,” said U.S. Attorney Estes. “Getting gun-carrying drug traffickers off our streets, particularly those with gang affiliations, is a vital part of protecting our communities from violent crime.”

In USA v. Baker et. al, dubbed Operation Stranded Bandit, 35 defendants were indicted. Of the 35, 34 pled guilty and were sentenced to terms of incarceration of up to 292 months in prison, while one defendant’s case was transferred to state court. 

The indictment describes an investigation that grew from other major gang-related drug trafficking prosecutions and targeted conspiracies to import illegal drugs from Mexico and route them through Atlanta and into the greater Savannah area.

“Illegal drugs and criminal street gangs have no place in Georgia,” said Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Mike Register. “These defendants were part of a criminal enterprise that has been threatening the safety of communities for years. We will continue to work diligently along with our local and federal partners to investigate and dismantle drug trafficking organizations and criminal street gangs.”

It was determined that multiple criminal street gangs, including the Ghost Face Gangsters, collaborated from inside and outside prisons using contraband cell phones to arrange drug transportation, delivery and distribution throughout coastal Georgia.

“This case brought down a significant methamphetamine distribution network operating in and around Savannah,” said Beau Kolodka, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “The citizens of Savannah are no doubt safer because of this prosecution. I applaud the thorough investigation conducted by our federal, state, and local partners which resulted in 35 convictions and lengthy sentences in this case.”