PICKENS COUNTY, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — At a press conference on June 24, 2020, members of law enforcement from multiple agencies and task forces released the details of a gang-related drug bust involving 137 kilos of methamphamine and the arrests of 47 individuals.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Atlanta Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer said Mexico continues to be a source of major methamphetamine supply in the Metro Atlanta area.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Assistant Director John Melvin said the number of gang members has increased over the last several years, from 800,000 to 1.4 million between 2008 and 2011 in the U.S. He said the number has now tripled to about three million nationwide.

Melvin said there are currently over 71,000 gang members in Georgia and he said more than 50,000 of them are in the Metro Atlanta area, based on Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation data.

The GBI issued this press release listing the arrests made and the gangs involved:

As a result of a 9-month investigation known as “Operation The Real McCoy,” the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad (CMANS), and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) served 47 arrest warrants for multiple charges including gang and drug related offenses.

In September 2019, Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad (CMANS) agents began an investigation into a supply chain of methamphetamine into Cherokee County.  The initial investigations led CMANS agents to DeKalb and Gwinnett counties and members of the Ghostface Gangsters.

Based on the initial investigation, CMANS, the GBI Gang Task Force, and HSI conducted an intensive investigation into the drug trafficking and distribution organization involving Brannon McCoy, age 26, Michael  Hazelwood, age 45, and Tricia Setser, age 38, who are traffickers of methamphetamine operating within numerous counties in Georgia including Sumter, Effingham, Fulton, Clayton, DeKalb, Cobb, Cherokee, Gilmer, and Pickens.  The investigation revealed a network involving members of the Ghostface Gangsters, the Gangster Disciples, and the Sureños.

The following were charged with Violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in Pickens County as part of “Operation The Real McCoy”:

Tanner Burnell, 31, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail
Donnie Chastain, 47, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail
Cindy McCoy-Wilson, 49, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail
Christopher Morris, 34, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail
Allyson Moyer, 41, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail
Jesse Rodriguez, 22, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail
David Skinner, 46, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail
Amanda Vliek, 37, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail
Brandon Sanchez Laney, 32, also charged with Violation of Georgia Street Gang and Terrorism Act, currently in custody at the Cherokee County Jail
Tyler Morris, 28, currently in custody at the Cherokee County Jail
Carl Welchel, 49, currently in custody at the Cherokee County Jail
Tricia Setser, 38, currently in custody at the Cherokee County Jail
Casey Plumb, 31, currently in custody at the Cherokee County Jail
Michael Hazelwood, 45, currently in custody at Cherokee County Jail
Josh Phillips, 23, currently in custody at the Gwinnett County Jail
Josh David Collins, 37, currently in custody of GDC
William Jamie Fields, 27, currently in custody of GDC
Brannon Chase McCoy, 26, currently in custody of GDC
Terrell Jamar Owens, 38, currently in custody of GDC
Bryan Thomas Pitt, 36, currently in custody of GDC
Kevin Rodriguez, 24, currently in custody of GDC
Joseph Seaborn III, 47, currently in custody of GDC
Dewane Cook, 46, currently in custody in Monroe County, TN
Orvelin Garcia Penaloza, 25, currently a fugitive from justice
Evan Dannny Taylor Yancey, currently a fugitive from justice
Dillon Thompson, 40, currently a fugitive from justice
Savannah Newton, 22, currently a fugitive from justice
Tracey Shirley, 47, currently a fugitive from justice
Brittany Owen, 41, also charged with Violation of Georgia Street Gang and Terrorism Act, currently a fugitive from justice
Dennis Debord, 39, currently a fugitive from justice
Jessica Darby, 33, currently a fugitive from justice
Derick Barker, 35, currently a fugitive from justice
Justin Barker, 31, currently a fugitive from justice
Mindy Skelton, 38, currently a fugitive from justice
These individuals conspired with one or more persons to participate, directly and indirectly, in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity, and did commit at least one overt act and conspired to commit a felony with Brannon McCoy.  Mr. McCoy acted as a broker from within the State Prison Camp in Sumter County, Georgia, for the distribution of methamphetamine from members of Drug Trafficking Organizations in Mexico to the streets of North Georgia, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

The following individuals were arrested on June 24, 2020:

Erik Noe Fuentes Escobar, 26, charged in Barrow County, GA with conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
Kevin Vega-Santana, 18, charged with trafficking methamphetamine in Fulton County, GA.
Artemio Maldonado Santana, 28, charged with trafficking methamphetamine in Fulton County, GA.
Elvis Maldonado-Santana, 21, charged with trafficking methamphetamine in Fulton County, GA.
Buford Smith, 68, charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in Pickens County, GA.
Leah Thompson, 31, charged with possession of methamphetamine in Pickens County, GA.
Joseph Arp, 50, charged with possession of methamphetamine in Pickens County, GA.
Wendy Kirby, 44, charged with obstruction in Pickens County, GA.
Tracy Kirby, 42, charged with obstruction in Pickens County, GA.
William Ryder, 45 charged with obstruction in Pickens County, GA.
Ashley Foster, 31, charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of a Schedule IV substance in Pickens County, GA.
Christopher Mountain 47, charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of a Schedule IV substance in Pickens County, GA.
Marjorie Brown, 61, charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in Pickens County, GA.
Agents seized over 136 kilograms of methamphetamine valued at $1.76 million and approximately $100,000.

Agencies involved in the investigation were the CMANS, the GBI Gang Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations, the Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, Pickens Sheriff’s Office, Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, Georgia Department of Corrections, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Barrow Sheriff’s Office, the Gordon County Drug Task Force, Gwinnett Gang Task Force and Special Investigation Section, DeKalb District Attorney’s Office, the Cobb PD and District Attorney’s Office, the Clayton SO and District Attorney’s Office, the Apex Unit from Atlanta PD, the West Metro Regional Drug Enforcement Office, the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office, the Georgia National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office.

The GBI Gang Task Force is made up of GBI Agents, task force agents from the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, the Atlanta Police Department, the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, the Georgia National Guard Counter Drug Task Force and the United States Department of Homeland Security/Homeland Security Investigations.

The Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad is a joint task force working in Cherokee County and Pickens County to investigate drug related violations. Participating agencies include the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, the Pickens Sheriff’s Office, the Canton Police Department, the Woodstock Police Department, the Holly Springs Police Department, the Ball Ground Police Department, the Cherokee County Marshal’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office for the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit, the District Attorney’s Office for the Appalachian Judicial Circuit and the Georgia State Patrol. Citizens may call in tips anonymously to (770) 345-7920 or may speak to an agent by calling (678) 493-7625.