The State Grand Jury handed down 487 indictments against 100 defendants in what prosecutors are calling “Prison Empire” — the largest narcotics conspiracy ever indicted in South Carolina state court, according to Attorney General Alan Wilson.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, Wilson said that contraband cell phones in prisons are allowing prisoners to sell and move drugs while behind bars.
Click below to see the names and charges of all 100 defendants arrested in Prison Empire.
During the investigation, officials seized 20 kilograms of meth, 5 kilos of heroin, 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, and 82 guns.
Most of the drugs involved were trafficked through the Upstate, according to the news release.
While a majority of the indictments include drug charges, some involve crimes committed out of retaliation for drug debt such as kidnapping and burglary.
The 100 defendants include both inmates and South Carolina residents who are alleged to take part in the drug trafficking scheme.
In one of the cases, a paralegal at a law firm allegedly smuggled meth into the prison system by mailing hollowed out court documents filled with drugs.
At the press conference, S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC) director Bryan Sterling called on lawmakers to legalize jamming cell phone signals in prisons.
“This is one more tragic example of the damage illegal cell phones do in the hands of inmates,” Stirling said. “The public would be safer if we were able to block cell phone signals. It is past time for Congress to act and allow states to jam cell phone signals inside prisons. We need a hearing on this important public safety issue.”
Sterling said prison officials have seized more than 31,000 cell phones from SC prisons since 2015.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Joshua R. Underwood, Assistant Attorney General David A. Fernandez, Assistant Attorney General John Conrad, Assistant Attorney General Johnny E. James, Jr., and State Grand Jury Division Chief Attorney S. Creighton Waters will prosecute the case.
“This case shows the importance of our State Grand Jury and its ability to investigate statewide cases that cross jurisdictional lines,” Wilson said. “It also highlights what we’ve been talking about for years now—the danger of contraband cell phones and how prison inmates use them to commit more crimes even while they’re behind bars.”
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