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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

August 10, 2010

Edward J. Tarver, United States Attorney

Contact: James D. Durham
First Assistant United States Attorney
(912) 201-2547

89 Defendants Charged on Gun, Drug Trafficking or Related Offenses Following 9-Month Undercover Investigation

Undercover ATF Agents Purchased, Seized 245 Firearms During Operation Thunderbolt

BRUNSWICK, GA — 34 federal indictments, today unsealed in federal court, have charged 57 defendants with federal firearm, drug trafficking or other federal offenses. 32 additional defendants were charged by Glynn County authorities on related state firearm and drug charges. The federal and state charges follow a 9-month undercover investigation dubbed Operation Thunderbolt.

The United States Attorney’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Glynn County Police Department and the Glynn County-Brunswick Narcotics Enforcement Team (GBNET) initiated Operation Thunderbolt in the fall of 2009. Undercover ATF agents posed as members of the Brunswick community interested in purchasing guns and drugs from the criminal element. During the operation, undercover agents purchased 245 firearms, including handguns, rifles, assault rifles and sawed-off shotguns; and, approximately $200,000 worth of illegal drugs, including more than 3 pounds of cocaine, over 1,500 ecstasy pills, over 800 oxycodone pills and a quantity of methadone. Many of the individuals who sold firearms and drugs to the undercover agents are allegedly convicted felons. In addition, a number of the guns purchased by undercover agents were allegedly stolen.

United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver stated, Protecting the public safety is the number one priority of the Department of Justice. Operation Thunderbolt was a bold effort to protect public safety by removing violent criminals who sell guns and drugs within our communities. This undercover operation serves as notice to the criminal element that if you traffic in firearms or drugs in this district, you will be found and you will be prosecuted.

Mr. Tarver praised the exemplary partnership between the ATF and the Glynn County Police Department, and noted that additional investigative support was provided by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the United States Secret Service.

Citizens deserve to feel safe in their homes and communities, whether they live in small towns or big cities. We have proven that we don’t just react to proliferating violent crime, we attack it, said Special Agent in Charge Gregory Gant of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Atlanta Field Division. The message is clear; if you choose to pollute our society with drugs or inflict violence on the innocent people of this or any other community in America, you will be dealt with. Today, these predators have become the prey of law enforcement.

Glynn County Police Chief Matthew Doering stated, The operation is a model example of how well the ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office works with a local agency to improve the safety of a community. The work of the investigators and U.S. Attorney’s Office was exemplary for which I am grateful and most proud. We will continue in our commitment in working with the community, our elected officials, staff and other agencies to provide the best possible law enforcement and quality of life services.

Following numerous arrests today, initial appearances for several of the federally indicted defendants will be held in United States District Court, Brunswick, Georgia, on August 12, 2010. A listing of the 55 federal defendants indicted is attached. Two additional subjects who have yet to be identified were also charged federally. A listing of 29 adult defendants arrested or being sought on state charges is also attached. The names of three additional juvenile defendants are being withheld.

Mr. Tarver stressed that an indictment is only an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the Government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Assistant United States Attorneys Cameron H. Ippolito, Carlton R. Bourne, Jr., Gregory J. Hurchalla, Lamont A. Belk and James C. Stuchell are prosecuting the federal cases for the United States.

For additional information, please contact First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 201-2547.