Authorities seized more than $1.7 million worth of methamphetamine following a nine-month trafficking investigation across the state. 
Photo: GBI
Photo: GBI

47 charged after massive drug busts net $1.7 million worth of meth

Authorities charged 47 people and seized more than $1.7 million worth of methamphetamine following a nine-month drug investigation across the state, officials said Wednesday.

Dubbed “The Real McCoy,” the drug operation began last September as an investigation into the supply of methamphetamine into Cherokee County, the GBI said. 


The investigation took agents across Georgia, and led to the arrests of several suspected gang members, including members of the Ghostface Gangsters, the Gangster Disciples and the Sureños, authorities said.

Among those charged were seven Georgia inmates locked up in various prisons across the state, according to Phil Price, commander of Cherokee County’s Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad. 

Officials also conducted search warrants at six homes, resulting in the seizure of 136 kilograms of meth worth nearly $2 million, he said. Agents also seized $100,000 in cash. 

According to the GBI, the investigation into the drug trafficking organization centered on 26-year-old Brannon McCoy, a Georgia inmate. Investigators said McCoy acted as a “broker” from within the State Prison Camp in Sumter County, facilitating the movement of meth from trafficking organizations in Mexico.

Brannon McCoy
Photo: Georgia Department of Corrections

The meth allegedly reached nine Georgia counties: Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Clayton, Cherokee, Pickens, Gilmer, Sumter and Effingham. Investigators also traced the meth to cities in Tennessee and West Virginia, the GBI said in a news release.

According to investigators, the following suspects were charged with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in Pickens County:

• Tanner Burnell, 31, in custody at the Pickens County Jail;

• Donnie Chastain, 47, in custody at the Pickens County Jail;

• Cindy McCoy-Wilson, 49, in custody at the Pickens County Jail;

• Christopher Morris, 34, in custody at the Pickens County Jail;

• Allyson Moyer, 41, in custody at the Pickens County Jail;

• Jesse Rodriguez, 22, in custody at the Pickens County Jail;

• David Skinner, 46, in custody at the Pickens County Jail;

• Amanda Vliek, 37, in custody at the Pickens County Jail;

• Brandon Sanchez Laney, 32, also charged with Violation of Georgia Street Gang and Terrorism Act, in custody at the Cherokee County Jail;

• Tyler Morris, 28, in custody at the Cherokee County Jail;

• Carl Welchel, 49, in custody at the Cherokee County Jail;

• Tricia Setser, 38, in custody at the Cherokee County Jail;

• Casey Plumb, 31, in custody at the Cherokee County Jail;

• Michael Hazelwood, 45, in custody at Cherokee County Jail;

• Josh Phillips, 23, in custody at the Gwinnett County Jail;

• Josh David Collins, 37, in custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections;

• William Jamie Fields, 27, in custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections;


• Brannon Chase McCoy, 26, in custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections;


• Terrell Jamar Owens, 38, in custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections;


• Bryan Thomas Pitt, 36, in custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections;


• Kevin Rodriguez, 24, in custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections;


• Joseph Seaborn III, 47, in custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections;


• Dewane Cook, 46, in custody in Monroe County, Tennessee;


• Orvelin Garcia Penaloza, 25, currently wanted;


• Evan Dannny Taylor Yancey, currently wanted;


• Dillon Thompson, 40, currently wanted;


• Savannah Newton, 22, currently wanted;


• Tracey Shirley, 47, currently wanted;


• Brittany Owen, 41, also charged with Violation of Georgia Street Gang and Terrorism Act, currently wanted;


• Dennis Debord, 39, currently wanted;


• Jessica Darby, 33, currently wanted;


• Derick Barker, 35, currently wanted;


• Justin Barker, 31, currently wanted;


• Mindy Skelton, 38, currently wanted.

The following suspects were arrested Wednesday, according to the GBI:

• Erik Noe Fuentes Escobar, 26, charged in Barrow County with conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony;


• Kevin Vega-Santana, 18, charged with trafficking methamphetamine in Fulton County;


• Artemio Maldonado Santana, 28, charged with trafficking methamphetamine in Fulton County;


• Elvis Maldonado-Santana, 21, charged with trafficking methamphetamine in Fulton County;


• Buford Smith, 68, charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in Pickens County;


• Leah Thompson, 31, charged with possession of methamphetamine in Pickens County;


• Joseph Arp, 50, charged with possession of methamphetamine in Pickens County;


• Wendy Kirby, 44, charged with obstruction in Pickens County;


• Tracy Kirby, 42, charged with obstruction in Pickens County;


• William Ryder, 45 charged with obstruction in Pickens County;


• Ashley Foster, 31, charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of a Schedule IV substance in Pickens County;


• Christopher Mountain 47, charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of a Schedule IV substance in Pickens County;


• Marjorie Brown, 61, charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in Pickens County.

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