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U.S. Attorney: Dozens charged in interstate drug trafficking ring out of Myrtle Beach, Conway, Florence

U.S. Attorney: Dozens charged in interstate drug trafficking ring out of Myrtle Beach, Conway,...
U.S. Attorney: Dozens charged in interstate drug trafficking ring out of Myrtle Beach, Conway, Florence
Updated: Dec. 1, 2020 at 11:23 PM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – More than two dozen people have been charged with federal drug conspiracy and firearms charges stemming from a drug trafficking organization that operated in the Grand Strand and the Pee Dee, authorities announced Tuesday.

According to information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a joint team of more than 85 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers arrested 18 people who have been charged in federal court for their roles in an interstate drug trafficking organization that operated out of Myrtle Beach, Conway, and Florence. Three others were already in custody on related charges, and five additional suspects remain at large.

Horry County Chief of Police Joseph Hill said officers remain on the lookout for the five people who have not yet been arrested.

”Stop running, because you’re just going to go to jail tired,” Hill said. “Turn yourself in. We got U.S. Marshals that are on you and we’ll have you in custody in a matter of days, if not hours.”

The arrests mark the first in Operation New Optix, the latest iteration in a series of joint federal/local investigations targeting drugs and violent crime in Myrtle Beach and the greater Pee Dee region, a press release stated.

This operation specifically targeted members of the drug trafficking organization based on their interstate importation of large quantities of cocaine and crack cocaine into South Carolina, and their use of firearms, authorities said.

“We are working together to make a difference in our community and that’s exactly what is happening,” said Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock. “These cases are what’s going to make that difference and make a change and we need to work together to continue to do that.”

The following defendants are in custody, according to the U.S. Attorney:

· Shackeel Coleman, 29, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 10 years to Life imprisonment.

· Kimo Felton, 41, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 10 years to Life imprisonment.

· Harry Bellamy, 41, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, 28 grams of cocaine base, and a quantity of marijuana. This charge carries a potential penalty of 10 years to Life imprisonment.

· Steven Jeffcoat, 30, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 28 grams of cocaine base. This charge carries a potential penalty of 10 years to Life imprisonment.

· Lenard Hemingway, 53, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.

· Yenitza Coleman, 27, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.

· Jasamine Mitchell, 32, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.

· Timothy McCray, 31, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 28 grams of cocaine base and a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment

· Henry Boyd, 39, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base and a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.

· Timothy Lee, 27, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.

· Jacqueline Strickland, 59, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.

· Venson Strickland, 29, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base and a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.

· James Graham, 30, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.

· Alonzo Lee Pierce, 37, of Galivants Ferry is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base and a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.

· Gary Jackson, 30, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.

· Alton Brown, 41, of Florence is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of cocaine and a quantity of cocaine base. This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.

· Joshua Darby, 32, of Murrells Inlet is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of cocaine and a quantity of cocaine base. This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.

· Travis Rogers, 40, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.

· Kevin Linnen, 33, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.

· Mario Williams, 41, of Florence is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of cocaine and a quantity of marijuana. This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.

· Robert Hooker, 40, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.

Authorities said the following suspects are still at large:

· Bradley Adams, 26, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.

· Brandon Prawl, 35, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and 28 grams or more of cocaine base. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.

· Quentin Smith, 29, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment. He is also charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime which carries a potential penalty of 5 years consecutive to any other penalty imposed.

· Curtis McArthur, 35, of Longs is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.

· Ernest Smalls Jr, 38, of Little River is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.

The indictment states the defendants began trafficking in cocaine and crack cocaine “at least in or around 2019.”

According to the press release, Operation New Optix “builds on years of successful efforts to target violent crime in the area.”

In 2017, Operation Silver Sunset targeted 29 associates of the Billy Bloods street gang, a subset of the United Blood Nation. In 2018, Operation Rise and Shine targeted 33 associates of G-Shine/SMG, another subset of the Bloods. Earlier in 2020, Operation Broken Branch targeted 31 members of a drug trafficking organization in the Cedar Branch area of Horry County, authorities said.

“Today’s (Tuesday) arrests mark the latest, but not the last, investigation targeting violent crime in this area,” the release stated.

According to authorities, agents interdicted multiple kilograms of cocaine before it was distributed. They also reportedly seized additional drugs and firearms in connection with the arrests.

Police said this roundup should send a clear message that illegal behaviors come with consequences, particularly for anyone who may think the police aren’t watching during a pandemic.

“You give the community what they want, and they want these problems fixed,” said North Myrtle Beach Police Chief Thomas Dennis.

The US attorney’s office said this operation further shows how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the sale and distribution of some illegal drugs.

“Right now, the street value of cocaine is high,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Everett McMillan. “I think like many things, it’s been affected by COVID-19. And right now the street value of cocaine is $50,000 or more per kilogram. So it’s a high value of drugs that this group is moving into the community.”

The full indictment can be read below:

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