Massive drone contraband operation leads to the arrest of 150 individuals in Georgia

Authorities in Georgia have taken action to address the growing issue of drones being used to transport illegal items into prisons. In a significant operation, nearly 150 individuals have been arrested as part of an extensive investigation into the smuggling of drugs and guns via aerial means into correctional facilities. This development serves as compelling evidence of the alarming rise in such activities.

The Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) spearheaded a series of raids on Thursday, resulting in the apprehension of 146 individuals believed to be involved in a massive gang-affiliated operation. This operation, known as “Operation Skyhawk,” was initiated in November 2022 with the aim of intercepting contraband items, including drugs, weapons, phones, and other prohibited objects, being smuggled into prisons across the state. The operation has been successful in identifying these illicit items, whether they were being flown into jails or found hidden in caches after aerial drops.

The extent of the prison black markets fueled by drones is staggering, as evidenced by the significant number of supplier flights intercepted before their deliveries could be made. It is important to note that these intercepted flights represent only a small fraction of the overall successful operations.

During the course of the investigation, GDC Special Agent Gregg Phillips informed TV station WSB Atlanta that approximately 170 prison drops were intercepted. Thursday’s busts, which were captured on film by the station’s crew, resulted in the arrest of 146 individuals involved in contraband drops. Notably, eight of those arrested were correctional officers, or had been.

Authorities have revealed that their investigation into the escalating trend of illegal drone deliveries to state prisons led them to uncover the largest criminal operation of its kind in Georgia.

During their extensive RICO investigation, law enforcement officials have reportedly discovered 51 pounds of suspected methamphetamine, along with significant quantities of other illicit substances. Additionally, they seized 22 firearms and various other prohibited items.

Yesterday’s arrests centered around Thunder Drones, a UAV repair business. The owner of the company is alleged to have collaborated with several individuals involved in the criminal networks responsible for these activities.

The small company, which primarily focuses on DJI craft based on its signage, had over 50 drones confiscated by the police as evidence. This included a few heavy-lift agricultural models that were stored at the owner’s home.

The authorities estimated that the contraband seized in the operation had a value of $7 million. The operation, which involved dropping items by drone, was believed to have taken place in multiple states. Georgia, with its large prison population of 47,000 people, was suspected to be the primary location for this activity.

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