For Immediate Release
Final Defendant Sentenced in Gang-Related South Georgia Meth-Trafficking Conspiracy
Conspiracy Operation Stranded Bandit Grew From Prior Gang Investigations
SAVANNAH, GA: The final sentence in a major methamphetamine trafficking operation signals the end of a prosecution that saw nearly three dozen defendants sent to prison after pleading guilty.
Kristin Sheppard, a/k/a “Kristin Shine,” a/k/a “K Shine,” 32, of Savannah, was sentenced 111 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 5 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.
Prior to Sheppard’s sentencing, Michael Brandon Sharpe, 46, of Pembroke, Ga., was sentenced to 210 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release after previously pleading guilty to Possession with Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, while William Hamilton, a/k/a “Hambone,” 42, of Guyton, Ga., was sentenced to 126 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release after previously pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 5 Grams or More of Methamphetamine.
There is no parole in the federal system.
“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.”
Sheppard, Sharpe and Hamilton are among 35 defendants indicted in USA v. Baker et. al, dubbed Operation Stranded Bandit. Unsealed in December 2020, the indictment describes an investigation that grew from other major gang-related drug trafficking prosecutions in Operation Vanilla Gorilla and Operation Who’s Laughing Now, and targeted conspiracies to import illegal drugs from Mexico and route them through Atlanta and into the greater Savannah area. The investigations and prosecutions, coordinated under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), 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.
Sheppard and Sharpe admitted to serving as a methamphetamine couriers and dealers, while Hamilton served as an armed bodyguard for other drug couriers. All three defendants have multiple prior felony convictions involving drugs.
Of the 35 defendants indicted in Operation Stranded Bandit, 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.
“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.”
“DEA’s involvement in dismantling this notoriously violent gang set is a prime example of how federal, state and local law enforcement partnerships work collaboratively to confront, engage and eliminate drug trafficking,” said Robert J. Murphy, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Atlanta Field Division. “Agents left no stone unturned and pursued every investigative lead to ensure these criminals were brought to justice.”
“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.”
The case was investigated by agencies including the ATF, the DEA, the GBI, and the Savannah-Chatham Counter Narcotics Team, the Jones County Sheriff’s Office, the Bryan County Sheriff’s Office, the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office, and the Richmond Hill Police Department, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys E. Greg Gilluly Jr. and Jennifer J. Kirkland.