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Federal Crackdown On Coastal South Carolina Drug Gangs Continues

Justice department moves against additional suspects …

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When Columbia, South Carolina criminal lawyer Sherri Lydon was named U.S. attorney for the Palmetto State in early 2018, she made it abundantly clear that focusing on gang activity – especially along the Palmetto State’s 187-mile coastline – was going to be one of her top priorities. In fact she paid a visit to the coast shortly after taking office to make sure local leaders knew where she stood.

“I wanted them to know how much the U.S. attorney’s office wanted to help,” Lydon said in 2018, referring to one of her first visits to the Myrtle Beach, S.C. area.  “I felt like our office had not had enough presence in this area.”

Lydon has since moved on to become a U.S. district court judge, but she was as good as her word – and her efforts on this front have continued under former S.C. state representative Peter McCoy (who followed Lydon into office) and acting U.S. attorney Rhett DeHart.

On Monday, DeHart’s office announced the arrest of six additional defendants in connection with a multi-agency operation called “New Optix,” which previously resulted in the indictment of 26 alleged drug traffickers last December.

As of this writing, a total of 35 defendants have been indicted in connection with this investigation – including 22 who have pleaded guilty and four who remain at large.

“This multi-year operation specifically targeted members of this drug trafficking organization based on their interstate importation of large quantities of cocaine and crack cocaine into South Carolina from the New York area, and their use of firearms in furtherance of their drug trafficking crimes,” a release from the U.S. attorney’s office noted.

That release added that the latest “New Optix” arrests resulted in the seizure of approximately $272,546 in suspected drug proceeds, five vehicles, 11 firearms, more than 4.5 kilograms of suspected cocaine, more than 450 grams of suspected crack cocaine, and “additional amounts of suspected fentanyl, heroin, marijuana, and other drugs,” per prosecutors.

Readers will recall the South Carolina coast is ground zero for the state’s growing fentanyl problem.

Here is the list of new defendants and the charges filed against them, per the U.S. attorney’s office …

  • Jovan Steven Graves, a/k/a “Pablo,” 34, of Brooklyn, New York, is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine.  This charge carries a potential penalty of 10 years to life imprisonment. 
  • Sean Lewis Adams, a/k/a “Lou,” 39, of Longs, is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine.  This charge carries a potential penalty of 10 years to life imprisonment.
  • Arthur Lee Busbee, Jr., a/k/a “Bubba Jaws,” 39, of Conway, is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine.  This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.
  • Deondray Azell Stanfield, a/k/a “Rich Black,” 43, of Myrtle Beach, is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine.  This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment. 
  • Brodus Bernard Gregg, 68, of Conway, is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine.  This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment. 
  • Dayvon Chadmar Bease, a/k/a “T-Nochi,” 37, of Conway, is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine.  This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment. 

As with anyone accused of committing any crime, the six individuals listed above are presumed innocent until proven guilty – or until such time as any of them may wish to enter some form of allocution in connection with a plea agreement with prosecutors related to any of the charges which have been filed against them.

According to the U.S. attorney’s office, New Optix is “the latest in a series of joint federal/state investigations targeting violent crime in Myrtle Beach and Horry county” with the latest arrests marking “the latest, but not the last, joint investigation targeting violent crime in this area.”

“As this office has made clear time and again, violent criminals will find no safe harbor in South Carolina,” DeHart said in a statement. “Because of the work of our federal, state, and local partners, we have obtained more than 100 convictions and been able to dismantle violent gangs across the Pee Dee region.”

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The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is leading the New Optix investigation, with support from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the U.S. Marshals, the Myrtle Beach police department, Horry county police department, North Myrtle Beach department of public safety, Florence county sheriff’s office, Georgetown county sheriff’s office, S.C. fifteenth circuit drug enforcement unit, Conway police department and the Horry county sheriff’s office

Robert J. Murphy – special agent in charge of the Atlanta, Georgia office of the DEA – credited this coalition with having systematically “disrupted and dismantled (a) once-thriving criminal network.”

“This case has been successful because of (the) spirited level of cooperation between DEA and its law enforcement counterparts,” Murphy said.

Assistant U.S. attorney Everett McMillian of the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), is prosecuting these defendants in coordination with the S.C. fifteenth circuit solicitor’s office.

Regular readers of this news outlet are well aware that I have a decidedly libertarian perspective when it comes to the so-called “war on drugs.” In fact, I have pointed out on many prior occasions that the criminal organizations targeted by law enforcement “owe their existence in no small part due to nearly five decades of failed federal prohibition policy.”

Just because I believe adults should be allowed to grow and consume marijuana and other drugs (up to a point) does not mean I support violence perpetrated by drug traffickers, however. In fact, I previously praised Lydon for “taking on some very dangerous people who are posing a danger to the safety of the Myrtle Beach area.”

While my news outlet will continue to advocate for the legalization of drugs (again, up to the point where this liberty begins to infringe upon the greater liberties of others), I will continue to applaud law enforcement officers and prosecutors who take action against credible threats to the public welfare.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Via: FITSNews)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that Fayetteville Woodpeckers’ lid pictured above).

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