Drug Enforcement Administration

Atlanta

Robert J. Murphy, Jr., Special Agent in Charge

February 04, 2019

Contact: Chuvalo Truesdell

Phone Number: (404) 893-7124

Affiliates of notorious white supremacist street gang plead guilty to federal charges

Defendants are among 46 indicted on drug trafficking and firearms charges as part of Operation Vanilla Gorilla

SAVANNAH, Ga. - Sixteen of the defendants indicted on drug trafficking and firearms charges as part of Operation Vanilla Gorilla have pled guilty in federal court, including the lead defendant in the gang.

Operation Vanilla Gorilla targeted the notorious Ghost Face Gangsters, a violent criminal street gang largely operated from inside Georgia’s prison system. The multi-agency federal, state and local operation netted 46 indictments on federal charges, primarily for drug trafficking and illegal firearms possession, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The indictments were handed down in November and December 2018 in U.S. District Court in Savannah.

Those who have entered guilty pleas in the case are:

David McCloskey, 47, of Augusta, Ga., the lead defendant in the case, pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine; conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine; and to drug user in possession of a firearm. He faces not less than 10 years to life in federal prison.

Daniel Fleming, 32, of Savannah, Ga., pled guilty to felon in possession of firearm. He faces up to 10 years in prison. However, if he is deemed by the court to be an armed career criminal, he could be sentenced to a minimum of 15 years up to life.

Christine Loggins, 43, of Rockledge, Ga., pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. She faces up to 20 years.

Devon Aines, 32, of Garden City, Ga., pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. He faces up to 20 years.

Miranda Burnsed, 32, of Pembroke, Ga., pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.  She faces up to 20 years.

Avery Wiggins, 43, of Guyton, Ga., pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a quantity of methamphetamine. She faces up to 20 years.

Maurice L. Graham, aka Moe, 45, of Savannah, Ga., pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a quantity of methamphetamine, possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, and possession and concealment of counterfeit obligations. He faces up to 20 years in prison. However, if he is deemed by the court to be an armed career criminal, he could be sentenced to a minimum of 15 years up to life.

Jessie Hurt, 40, of Ellabell, Ga., pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute a quantity of methamphetamine and felon in possession of a firearm. He faces at least 5 years up to life.

Raymond Warren, 47, of Ellabell, Ga., pled guilty to felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment.

Ryan Smiley, 35, of Savannah, Ga., pled guilty to felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to 27 months.

Darren Driggers, 26, of Bloomingdale, Ga., pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a quantity of methamphetamine, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He faces up to 20 years in prison. However, if he is deemed by the court to be an armed career criminal, he could be sentenced to a minimum of 15 years up to life.

Elizabeth Kitchens, 37, of Tybee Island, Ga., pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a quantity of methamphetamine, and felon in possession of a firearm. She faces up to 20 years in prison. However, if she is deemed by the court to be an armed career criminal, she could be sentenced to a minimum of 15 years up to life.

Crystal Wilson, 36, of Bloomingdale, Ga., pled guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a quantity of methamphetamine. She faces up to 20 years.

The proceedings of three additional defendants have been sealed by the court because of safety concerns. 

The indictments allege that the narcotics-trafficking conspiracy began as early as 2015, operating in Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, Emmanuel, Evans and Tattnall Counties, in the Southern District of Georgia, and elsewhere. Members of the conspiracy associated with the Ghost Face Gangsters and with other criminal street gangs to aid in the distribution of controlled substances, for protection, and to promote a climate of fear.

Operation Vanilla Gorilla represents one of the largest takedowns of Ghost Face Gangsters associates to date, and follows the March 2018 arrests of 23 gang members in the Northern District of Georgia on federal charges, and multiple arrests in October 2018 on state charges in Spalding County, Ga.

“DEA, its law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office eradicated a violent and notoriously dangerous street gang who trafficked drugs," said DEA Atlanta Division Special Agent in Charge Robert J. Murphy. "This gang wreaked havoc by distributing methamphetamine while leaving a destructive path of violence along the way. Today, we are proud to have shut down this once-thriving criminal network. I want to thank our federal, state and local law enforcement counterparts who aided in making these guilty pleas possible.” 

“These guilty pleas are a credit to the hard work of law enforcement agents and prosecutors in bringing charges against this violent street gang,” said U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine. “The strong coordination of federal, state and local law enforcement will continue to identify, target and dismantle these gangs as we work together to make our communities safer.”

“ATF will continue to dedicate federal resources in conjunction with those crucial law enforcement contributions of local agencies to the pursuit of eradicating and forestalling 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.

Operation Vanilla Gorilla was investigated under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces, the centerpiece of the United States Attorney General’s drug strategy to reduce the availability of drugs by disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and related criminal enterprises. The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Chatham County Narcotics Team, the Georgia Department of Corrections Intelligence Division, the Savannah Police Department, the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, the Bryan County Sheriff’s Office, the Richmond Hill Police Department, the Pooler Police Department, the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office and the Bloomingdale Police Department, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys E. Greg Gilluly Jr. and Frank Pennington.

The DEA encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.justhinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov. Also, follow DEA Atlanta via Twitter at @DEAATLANTADiv.

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