In the several weeks that Cherokee County investigators were undercover at an area Wendy’s location for possible drug activity, narcotics task force commander Phil Price said employees never offered to sell them a hamburger.
“I can tell you we never bought any food there,” Price told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday.
Instead, he said nearly half the staff was dealing methamphetamine.
“A stranger couldn’t drive up in the drive-thru and get meth and a hamburger or a Frosty,” Price said, “but certainly if they were familiar with you, you could have bought your food at the same time.”
The Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad arrested four employees, including the manager, after executing a search warrant Thursday at the Wendy’s located at 102 Riverstone Parkway in Canton.
Price said his agency was first made aware of the drug operation over a month ago, when agents arrested a person who brought it to their attention.
The restaurant was shut down around 2 p.m. Thursday while agents searched for the drugs and reopened for business later in the afternoon, though there were just five employees left to man the grills.
Price said those employees were innocent victims, like the customers who dined at the Wendy’s likely unaware of the drugs coming and going. Narcotics agents observed the employees making drug deals both inside the restaurant and in the parking lot, according to authorities.
“The lead person was the manager,” Price said. “There was nobody for them to talk to and they needed a job. That is frustrating because those people were trying to make a living ... its always a good thing when we can help people who feel helpless.”
Narcotics agents arrested Zachary Jerome Donley, 27, Kristal Dawn Hogan, 32, Amanda Jean McCartney, 36, and Jeffrey Levi Justus, 26.
The suspects “are no longer employed by our company,” Wendy’s said in a statement.
“The safety of our employees and customers is our top priority,” the company said. “We do not condone any sort of illegal activity in our restaurants, and we will continue to fully cooperate with law enforcement on their investigation.”
There was no indication the money from the drug sales and the food transactions ever comingled, according to Price.
The agency did not disclose the amount of drugs recovered in the bust. Of the nearly $840,000 worth of drugs seized in Cherokee County in 2017, more than $500,000 of it was meth, according to the most recent stats from the narcotics squad.
Meth-related deaths increased 40 percent from 2016 to 2017 statewide, according to the GBI.
“In this case it was not the quantities of drugs, but the risk to the public, that concerned us,” Price said in a statement.
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