Massive Drone Smuggling Ring Busted INSIDE Atlanta Prisons: 150 Arrested INCLUDING Corrupt Officers

By Lisa Pelgin | Monday, 01 April 2024 08:30 AM
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In a sweeping operation that began in November 2022, an alleged drone-based contraband scheme within Georgia's prisons has been dismantled, leading to the arrest of 150 individuals, including eight corrections officers.

The investigation, aptly named "Operation Skyhawk," revealed that drones were being utilized to smuggle cellphones, drugs, and weapons into facilities under the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC).

The office of Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced on Thursday that a joint effort between the GDC and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Safe Streets Gang Task Force led to the execution of search and arrest warrants at two locations in the Metro Atlanta area.

The recent crackdown involved a drone repair shop in Gwinnett County, where authorities seized over 50 drones and arrested two individuals. The eight implicated GDC employees were promptly dismissed.

The Governor's office declared the extensive criminal network had been "successfully dismantled," stating, "This operation successfully dismantled an elaborate criminal network spanning multiple states, encompassing civilians, inmates, and staff engaged in smuggling contraband into GDC facilities."

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Governor Kemp, in a statement, expressed his gratitude to the law enforcement agencies involved and reiterated Georgia's zero-tolerance policy towards such criminal activities. He said, "Georgia will not tolerate those who put our communities at risk by trafficking drugs, weapons, and contraband both in and out of our correctional facilities. I want to thank [Georgia Department of Corrections} Commissioner [Tyrone] Oliver, the hardworking men and women of the GDC, and all law enforcement who worked to shut these operations down and help keep both Georgians and our correctional facilities safe."

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Echoing the Governor's sentiments, GDC Commissioner Tyrone Oliver said, "The success of 'Operation Skyhawk' should be a reminder to anyone -- inside or outside our prisons -- that we have zero tolerance and will take swift action against those who threaten the safe operations of our facilities and the safety of the public."

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The charges resulting from the investigation include over 1,000 counts related to contraband smuggling, drug trafficking, and possession of firearms by felons. Additional charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and gang-related offenses are also being considered. This could potentially result in the largest gang-related RICO case in Georgia's history, according to state officials.

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Gregg Phillips, a special agent with the GDC, revealed that approximately 170 prison drops were intercepted during the investigation. The success of "Operation Skyhawk" was largely attributed to the cooperation with hundreds of local law enforcement partners who played a pivotal role in making traffic stops, responding to throwovers, and intercepting contraband drops via drones at GDC facilities.

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The governor's office suggested that several other states may also be affected by the same criminal enterprise.

Commissioner Oliver further emphasized the GDC's commitment to justice, stating, "Our reach is far and wide, not just within the walls of our facilities, and I stand by my words from over a year ago, that this activity will not be tolerated. I am immensely proud of our Agents for their commitment to seeing that these individuals are brought to justice."

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The operation led to the seizure of 87 drones, 273 contraband cellphones, 22 weapons, and substantial quantities of tobacco, marijuana, methamphetamine, ecstasy, and cocaine. The estimated street value of the seized items is around $7 million.

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