A newly unsealed federal indictment names 15 defendants as part of a major drug trafficking network operating in the greater Savannah area.
The indictment in USA v. Smiley et al., dubbed “Operation Be Real Every Second,” charges all defendants with a drug trafficking conspiracy that carries a statutory maximum penalty of life in prison, said Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The indictment was unsealed Wednesday, April 26, in U.S. District Court.
“Working with our law enforcement partners, we are committed to identifying and eradicating the conduits of illegal drugs into our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. “This indictment sends a clear message that we will hold accountable those who would profit from distributing deadly and addictive drugs in in the Southern District.”
Initiated as an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces investigation, the indictment in Operation “Be Real Every Second” alleges that from about January 2017 through March 2023, the defendants conspired to distribute large amounts of cocaine, crack cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and marijuana throughout Chatham County.
Along with drug possession and distribution charges against multiple defendants, all 15 defendants are charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, Five Kilograms or More of Cocaine, 28 Grams or More of Crack Cocaine, and a Quantity of Fentanyl, Methamphetamine, and Marijuana. The charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison. They include:
- Gregory Smiley, 45, of Savannah, the lead defendant in the case;
- Lena Smiley, 42, of Savannah, Gregory Smiley’s wife;
- James Burton, a/k/a “Muffin,” 48, of Savannah;
- Jason Burton, a/k/a “JB,” 45, of Savannah;
- Charles Tolbert, a/k/a “Charlie Boy,” 42, of Savannah;
- Wilbert Gordon, a/k/a “Slap,” 47, of Savannah;
- Anthony Williams, 49, of Savannah;
- Ebony Coleman, 44, of Savannah;
- Richard Wood, 38, of Savannah;
- Armond Smith, 42, of Savannah;
- Jerome Jenkins, 46, of Pooler, Ga.;
- Robert Jones, 36, of Savannah;
- Leon Brown, 57, of Savannah;
- Shadar Wright, 40, of Garden City, Ga.; and,
- Tywanna Lewis, 46, of Savannah.
Thirteen of the defendants are in custody and are having initial appearance hearings. Armond Smith and Shadar Wright are being sought.
In addition to the conspiracy charge, the 40-count indictment alleges Gregory Smiley, conspiring with Lena Smiley and Tywanna Lewis, used gambling casinos in Nevada and Maryland to illegally launder and conceal profits derived from the conspiracy.
The indictment also includes a notice of the government’s intent to seek the forfeiture of nearly $200,000 in cash seized during the investigation; three bank accounts registered to the lead defendant; four Savannah residences; and high-end jewelry valued at more than $138,000, including a Rolex watch.
Criminal indictments contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case was investigated under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.
The case is being investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Savanah Resident Office; the Chatham Savannah Counter Narcotics Team; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Savannah Police Department; the Chatham County Police Department; and the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, and prosecuted for the United States by Southern District of Georgia Assistant U.S. Attorneys Darron J. Hubbard and OCDETF Coordinator Marcela C. Mateo.