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Arrests in Major Federal Drug Investigation,
Over Fifty Defendants Charged



COLUMBIA, South Carolina (USDOJ) -- Acting United States Attorney JONATHAN S. GASSER, stated that approximately sixty (60) defendants have been charged and arrested in connection with Operation A Arrango an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation involving multiple local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in the Midlands.

Three indictments were handed down by a federal grand jury in late July, 2005 and were unsealed this week following the arrests of multiple defendants. Arrest teams comprised of more than a hundred law enforcement officers from the state, federal and local agencies listed below executed search and arrest warrants at various locations in and around Columbia on August 9 and 10, 2005.

The defendants charged in the first case were:

Claude Ronald Best, Age 33, Kastellomon Witherspoon, Age 32, Everett Demontz Henry, Age 34, Cedrick Trevor Watson, Age 33, Christopher Woodard, Age 45, Coris Latrell Jacobs, Age 28, Brian Hampton, Age 28, Kareem Fordham, Age 31, Antonio Orlando Fordham, Age 29, Chevis Lamon Williams, Age 28, Laron Green, Age 30, Robert Levon Richardson, Age 24, Frankie Wendell Gilmore, Age 32, Rickey Lamar Huguenin, Age 34, James Lykes, Age 32, Tracy Gunter, Age 33, Jimmy Palmore, Age 38, Eugene Hamilton, Age 33, Nigel Jovan Watson, Age 22, and William Perkins, Age 53, All Of Columbia, South Carolina, and Myron Belle Newton, age 33, of Stone Mountain, Georgia, were charged in an Indictment with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 50 grams or more of cocaine base (commonly known as A crack cocaine), a violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 846. This 45-count indictment (charging multiple violations of federal law involving drug trafficking, money-laundering and firearms offenses) also names four other defendants who were previously charged in connection with the ongoing investigation: brothers ROBERT FREEMAN GARRICK,1 age 32 and DESMOND GARRICK, age 33, both of Columbia, South Carolina: and MANUEL ANGEL SAUCEDO PEREZ, a/k/a A Omar , a/k/a A Ricardo Zepede , a/k/a A Ricardo Leon , age 27, and OMAR RENTERIA, age 27, both of Atlanta, Georgia and Houston, Texas. RENTERIA and the GARRICK brothers remain in custody; PEREZ remains a fugitive. The Second Superseding Indictment includes 45 counts of various drug, gun, and money laundering charges.) If convicted of Count One (the conspiracy count), all of these defendants face a mandatory minimum term of at least 10 years incarceration without parole, (more if they have prior drug convictions), a maximum term of life imprisonment, a fine of $5 million dollars and a 5 year term of supervised release. Defendants charged in other counts also face additional penalties. This case will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) Jane B. Taylor, William Witherspoon and Stanley Ragsdale of the Columbia office.

Defendants charged in the second indictment, which targets organized drug dealing in the King and House Street areas of Columbia, are: LORENZO DARNELLE TUCKER, a/k/a A Lamb , ALVIN BAKER, a/k/a A Weasel , age 28; RALPH SIMS, age 36; LEONARDO DAVINCI BAKER, age 23; ANDRE BAKER, age 22; MIKE ROOSEVELT KIRK, age 28; LAVAR SWINTON, age 24; JAMES ONEAL MACK, a/k/a A Neal , age 26; TYRELL LETWAN DAVIS, a/k/a A Tweet , age 23; ARTIZ GIBSON, a/k/a A Dank , age 23; TYGANDA GILMORE, a/k/a A G Money , a/k/a A Gandhi , age 24; DESHAN D. RUCKER, a/k/a A Deshun , age 28; RHONDA LISA CALDWELL, a/k/a A Lee-Lee, age 30; SABRINA YVONNE ADDY, age 27; YOLANDA ETHERIDGE, age 23; WILLIE EUGENE SMITH, age 37; CHRISTINA D. MIDDLETON, a/k/a A Chris , age 33; JUANITA BARBER, age 48; LARRY PATTERSON, age 55; and SHEILA GOODSON, age 42, all of Columbia, South Carolina. These defendants were charged in a thirty-five (35) count Indictment which includes a count alleging a conspiracy to knowingly, intentionally and unlawfully possess with intent to distribute and to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base (commonly known as A crack cocaine), a violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 846, and thirty four counts of distribution of cocaine base (commonly known as A crack cocaine), a violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1). All defendants face a mandatory minimum term of at least 10 years incarceration without parole, (more if they have prior drug convictions), a maximum term of life imprisonment, a fine of $5 million dollars and a 5 year term of supervised release. Defendants charged in other counts also face additional penalties. This case will be prosecuted by AUSAs Tara McGregor and Stacey Haynes of the Columbia office.

Defendants charged in the third indictment (which targets organized drug dealing in the Elmwood Avenue area of Columbia ) are: BRUCE A. WISE, age 25, JAMIE ROSTELL JACKSON, age 28, RASHAUN SCOTT, age 26, ANTONIO CHERRY, age 26, WALLACE TYRONE HILLER, age 30, DIANNE HILLER, age 46, EDDIE JOHNSON, age 26, COREY TIWAN WILSON, age 26, LEVITICUS MILLER, age 21, LEWIS PRAYLOW, age 21, MARTY SAXON, age 29, SHAWNTE ANDERSON, age 26, KENNETH PRAYLOW, age 21, LAVORIS DAWSON, age 19, MARIO REESE, age 25, and AUTREY CHERRY, age 30, all of Columbia. All of these defendants were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base (commonly known as A crack cocaine), in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846. This indictment also includes thirty-seven counts naming individual defendants with distribution of cocaine base on particular dates. All defendants face a mandatory minimum term of at least 10 years incarceration without parole, (more if they have prior drug convictions), a maximum term of life imprisonment, a fine of $5 million dollars and a 5 year term of supervised release. Defendants charged in other counts also face additional penalties. This case will be prosecuted by AUSAs Leesa Washington and Mark Moore of the Columbia office.

Mr. Gasser stated that the charges and arrests in these cases are the result of a long term investigation into illegal drug and gang activities in the City of Columbia. This investigation involved all of the agencies listed below, all working together on the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). These indictments build on, and are related to, the indictment issued earlier this spring targeting organized drug dealing in the Greene Street area of Columbia.2 Mr. Gasser stated that the goal of the OCDETF program is to target organized drug dealing at all levels, and to take the investigation from the street level up the chain to multi-state, multi-national large scale suppliers of narcotics. Evidence presented in court hearings in connection with the GARRICK and ADDISON cases has indicated that this investigation utilized numerous techniques, including Title III wiretaps, controlled buys made by confidential informants and undercover officers, audio and video surveillance and the use of cooperating witnesses. Evidence presented to date has also linked fugitive MANUEL ANGEL SAUCEDO PEREZ to major, multi-national drug suppliers. Agents involved in this case have coordinated with and passed leads to state and federal agents in Georgia, Texas, California, North Carolina and Arizona. Agents have seized or restrained over a million dollars worth of illegal drug-related assets to date in connection with this investigation.

In addition to the arrests listed above, at least eight search warrants were executed at various residences in and around the Columbia area as a part of this investigation. Quantities of both A crack and powder cocaine were found during one or more of these searches. Agents also seized firearms, ammunition and large sums of money during these searches.

Mr. Gasser stated that the cases were investigated by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Richland County Sheriff = s Department (RCSD), City of Columbia Police Department (CPD), Internal Revenue Service (IRS-CI) , and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), assisted by agents of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) United States Marshal = s Service (USMS), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) South Carolina Department of Public Safety (Highway Patrol) and the Bureau of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), all working together on the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). Invaluable assistance was also provided by the new, FBI-led Columbia Gang Violence Task Force. Mr. Gasser praised the work and cooperative efforts of the state, local and federal agencies involved in this investigation. Mr. Gasser also thanked Fifth Circuit Solicitor Barney Giese for the assistance and invaluable contributions made by his office during the course of this investigation. The cases stemming from this investigation will be prosecuted by teams of Assistant United States Attorneys from the office = s Narcotics and Violent Crimes sections.

The Acting United States Attorney stated that all charges in these Indictments are merely accusations and that all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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1 At the time of his arrest, Robert Freeman A Poncho Garrick was the owner and operator of Chances Sports Bar and Jaylen = s Jazz Café in Columbia.

2 Defendants charged in that case include DONNELL ADDISON, age 28, JERBLONSKI LEON ADDISON, age 29, KEVIN GOODWIN, age 33, WILLIAM LEWIS, age 34, KENNETH BERNARD CHEESEBORO, age 50, JAMES THOMAS GREEN, age 32, JOSEPH GREEN, age 25, ANTHONY PATTERSON, age 34, EDDIE ANTHONY CATLIN, age 36, MARVIN BROWN, age 32, ANTONIO CHEESEBORO, age 30, MARCUS ASHFORD, age 26, JOSEPH ARTHUR KELLY, age 37, KEVIN KELLY, age 32, RONALD KAREEM PALMER, age 25, MELVIN JEROME SIMS, age 24, CEDRIC GIBSON, age 45, LAVERNE JOHNSON, age 56, AVERY MYLES, age 28, ANTHONY SOMERVILLE, age 43, CHARLES MITCHELL, age 51, WILBERT BOSTON, age 49, and MICHAEL WAYNE DANIELS, age 48, all of Columbia. Three defendants have been charged as a result of a related investigation by the Columbia Gang Violence Task Force (comprised of federal, state and local agents who often work in conjunction with the OCDETF task force); these defendants are KOFI ANTWAINE SUMTER, ANTWAN LAQUAL WALKER and TRAVIS LAMONT JENNINGS, all of Columbia.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.