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68 Defendants Indicted in “Operation Wu Block” Meth, Heroin Investigation

An ongoing, large scale drug trafficking investigation dubbed “Operation Wu Block” has yielded criminal charges for 68 Georgians

An ongoing, large scale drug trafficking investigation dubbed “Operation Wu Block” has yielded criminal charges for 68 individuals and the seizure of kilos of methamphetamine and heroin, with more indictments expected in the coming months, said Charlie Peeler, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.

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.

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.”

“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.”

“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.”

19 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 twenty years to life in prison; distribution of methamphetamine or heroin with sentences ranging from twenty 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. An indictment is only an allegation of criminal conduct, and all of the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendants are as follows (last name, first name):

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

“Operation Wu Block,” an OCDETF-led investigation, is part of the larger “Operation Crystal Shield,” a national DEA operation first announced on February 20, 2020 during a press conference in Atlanta. The investigation is focused on eight main methamphetamine trafficking transportation hubs across the nation, including Atlanta. Both are on-going operations.

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