COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Federal and state authorities say they've broken up a large scale cocaine operation that spanned at least six South Carolina counties.
Federal prosecutors and law enforcement leaders say their investigation allowed them to seize more than 40 guns, vehicles, at least three quarters of a million dollars in cash and about 10 kilos of cocaine.
The probe covered Lexington, Richland, Aiken, Saluda, Lee and Sumter counties.
So far, 19 of 22 suspects have been arrested.
- Juan Pablo Contreras, a/k/a “Juan David Montoya” (Sumter);
- Eduardo Esaid Contreras-Reyes (Sumter);
- Marco Antonio Castro, a/k/a “Chino” (West Columbia);
- Javier Toscano-Serrano (West Columbia);
- Andre LeWayne Brooks (Sumter);
- Jimmy Tony McDowell, a/k/a “Jimmy Fingers” (Sumter);
- Jermaine Terrell Hilton, a/k/a “Fifty” (Sumter);
- Michael Antonio Floyd, a/k/a “Tony,” “Tone,” and “Fat Tony” (Sumter);
- Rayshon Jamaal Foster, a/k/a “Shan” and “Terry Brown” (Sumter);
- Donald Antwon Dingle, a/k/a “Red” and “Flash” (Sumter);
- Corey Emanuel White, a/k/a “Chopper,” “Choppa,” and “El Chop” (Sumter);
- Damonion Mckinzie Bing (Aiken); Alvaro Valencia-Gonzalez, a/k/a “Shorty” (Aiken);
- Alejandro Quinones Leyva, a/k/a “Guero” (North Carolina);
- Travis Jermaine Pough (Aiken); Andre Maurice Hightower (Lexington);
- Antonio Terrill Sweat, a/k/a “Tony” (Aiken);
- Harold Matthew McFadden (Sumter);
- Bryant Christopher Ford (Atlanta, Georgia).
"Many of the counties involved here are rural counties," U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said. "And they have been hit particularly hard, you know,, smaller government concept has hit them particularly hard. And they don't have the resources they used to. And so we at the United States Attorney's Office have a special soft spot in our heart for the rural areas. And so we're willing to partner with rural areas as much as we can in order to help fill the void."
A series of shootings in Sumter last year helped launch the much wider crackdown.
"Our south side of our community in 2014 from January until May we had nine shootings like in a 10 block area," City of Sumter Police Chief Russell Roark said. "And as we began to investigate and sort of dismantle and speak with members of the community, our investigators found that they were very closely related. In fact they were all related. And they were all either drugs or drug activity. One drug dealer attempting to steal from another drug dealer."
Authorities say hundreds of kilos of cocaine were brought into the country using tractor trailer trucks with much of the drug ending up in Atlanta where it was then funneled into South Carolina.
The U.S. Attorney's Office and others say this bust established a clear connection between Mexican drug cartels and gang activity here in South Carolina.