Dozens of suspects arrested in Georgia in federal drug, gun crackdown

Federal authorities announced a blitz of arrests and indictments Wednesday against more than 100 people charged with gun and drug crimes in three U.S. states.

The flurry of charges from the Justice Department in Georgia, West Virginia and New York comes as federal officials work to combat an uptick in violent crime, particularly involving guns. The Biden administration has tried to showcase federal, state and local efforts to get guns and repeat shooters off the streets.

Federal prosecutors and FBI agents were particularly busy in southern Georgia, where an indictment was unsealed charging 76 people with involvement in what authorities called a gang-related network that distributed methamphetamine, fentanyl and other illegal drugs. Authorities called it the largest indictment ever filed in the 43-county Southern District of Georgia.

The FBI sent SWAT teams and agents from Atlanta and neighboring South Carolina and Florida Wednesday to help round up more than 30 suspects in coastal Brunswick and surrounding Georgia communities, said Jermaine Deans, the assistant agent in charge of the FBI’s Atlanta office. He said one man who fled was arrested with 122 grams of fentanyl.

Most of the others charged were already behind bars for prior crimes. Nine charged in the indictment remained at large, authorities said.

The dozens indicted in Georgia included a prison guard accused of assisting with drug dealing among inmates and two men charged with selling fentanyl and methamphetamine that resulted in three overdose deaths.

"Make no mistake, illegal distribution of illegal drugs is not a victimless crime," said U.S. Attorney David Estes of the Southern District of Georgia. He said the three who died "bear silent witness to the toll of these illegal drugs flowing into our communities."

Federal authorities also seized 43 guns including some assault rifles. Estes said all 76 defendants were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute illegal drugs, punishable by 10 years to life in prison. Many were charged with additional crimes.

Guns have been at the center of the debate as the nation grapples with homicides that spiked nationally in 2020 and as recent polls showed that Americans are increasingly concerned about crime.

The increase that started in 2020 has defied easy explanation, though. Experts point to several potential factors: the pandemic that has killed more than 1 million people in the U.S., gun violence, worries about the economy, high inflation rates and intense stress.