Special to the Courier
An Allenhurst woman was among several people indicted for gang-related drug trafficking under Operation ACE in the Hole, being prosecuted by Bobby L. Christine, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The 61 page indictments names 26 defendants, including Crystal Wheeler, 36 of Allenhurst.
Indictments in the operation were returned under seal in U.S. District Court in Statesboro, said Christine. After the indictments were unsealed, the charges were announced in a news conference at the Toombs County Courthouse last week. Additional defendants face state charges in the investigation.
“With leaders that included a regional boss of the Gangster Disciples, this drug trafficking organization was a major source of illicit narcotics, gang violence and illegal guns throughout the Toombs County area and beyond,” Christine said. “Our brave local, state and federal law enforcement partners pursued this conspiracy tirelessly for more than a year, and our office’s prosecution of these charges will be just as relentless.”
Investigators from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, working with federal and local law enforcement agencies, started the investigation in August 2018 in response to increasing gang violence and drug-related activities in the Vidalia, according to a press release.
The investigation reportedly identified Deltinaud Toussaint, a/k/a “Black,” a/k/a “Tino,” a/k/a “Tino Black,” 44, of Vidalia, as the primary supplier of the organization’s narcotics – including methamphetamine, cocaine, MDMA or “Ecstasy,” and marijuana – through connections in Atlanta.
An alleged member of the conspiracy for whom the operation is named, Justin Adams, a/k/a “Ace,” 39, of Vidalia, was identified as a regional leader of the Gangster Disciples criminal street gang.
In June 2019, investigators executed search warrants at eight houses in Atlanta and Vidalia used for stashing or distributing narcotics, seizing more than two kilos of cocaine, four kilos of marijuana, half a kilo of methamphetamine, more than two kilos of MDMA, pints of Codeine, 600 grams of Xanax, pill presses, and surveillance equipment.
The drugs were hidden in such items as children’s backpacks and baby-formula bottles. Investigators also seized 20 firearms, including a fully automatic machine gun and several assault-style rifles, a trove of gang-related documents, and approximately $49,000 in cash.
Wheeler is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute a controlled Substance; conspiracy to use, carry or possess firearms; and use of a communications facility.
If convicted, each of the defendants faces a possible sentence of up to life in prison.
“The amazing work on ‘Operation Ace in the Hole’ demonstrates the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) model of prosecutor-led, intelligence driven, multi-agency investigative and prosecution strategy that proves effective against command and control elements of regional, national and international gangs,” said Adam W. Cohen, director of the OCDETF Program for the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The confiscation of drugs, guns and money, and the removal of 26 defendants from the streets, will immediately make the citizens of Toombs County safer,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “None of it would have been possible without the cooperative effort of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Our commitment to dismantling gangs that wreak havoc in our communities and endanger the people who live in them will never end.”
Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division stated, “These notorious gang-related drug dealers distributed poison to the community and caused fear through means of violence and intimidation. Step by step, the government disrupted and dismantled this once-thriving criminal network. This effort would not have been successful without the spirited level of cooperation between DEA, its federal, state and local law enforcement counterparts and the subsequent prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
“This case is the product of a concerted collaborative effort on the part of ATF and its federal, state and local partners to target, investigate, and eliminate the perpetrators of violent crime, to include eradicating criminal gang activity,” said Beau Kolodka, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “This case is a great example of how you leverage law enforcement resources to target the offenders driving crime in Toombs County area and beyond.”
“We are committed to working with our partners to get dangerous guns and drugs off the streets,” said Vic Reynolds, Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. “We will not allow gangs to continue to terrorize neighborhoods with hardworking citizens who want to raise their families in a safe environment.”
Criminal indictments contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case was investigated under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), the premier U.S. Department of Justice program to dismantle multi-jurisdictional drug trafficking organizations. The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the FBI, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, the Toombs County Sheriff’s Office, the Lyons Police Department, the Oconee Drug Task Force, and the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, and is being prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys E. Greg Gilluly Jr. and Joseph McCool.