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“Operation Wu Block” resulted in the seizure of more than 58 kilograms of methamphetamine, more than two kilograms of heroin, 31 firearms and $56,000. Nineteen federal indictments charging a total of 68 defendants were returned by federal grand juries in the Middle District of Georgia.

ATHENS – A defendant charged in an ongoing, large-scale drug trafficking investigation dubbed “Operation Wu Block,” has pleaded guilty for her crime, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Charlie Peeler said.

Latasha Bishop, 33, of Athens-Clarke County, pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of methamphetamine before U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal on July 8. Bishop faces a maximum 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine and four years of supervised release. Her sentencing date has not been scheduled. A total of 68 individuals were charged with related drug and gun crimes as a result of “Operation Wu Block.” To date, 45 have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced or are awaiting sentencing. There is no parole in the federal system.

Lazaro Hernandez, 28, of Cobb County, remains at-large, charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute heroin.

“We are moving swiftly to crack down on criminals involved in pushing methamphetamine into our communities across the Middle District of Georgia,” Peeler said in a news release. “I want to commend the excellent work of all the agencies involved in this massive investigation. Meth suppliers and sellers will face federal prosecution and the possibility of up to life in prison without parole, for choosing to traffic meth.”

“Operation Wu Block” is a multiyear Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration Macon Resident Office, FBI Middle Georgia Safe Streets Gang Task Force, Athens-Clarke County Police Department, Clarke County Sheriff’s Office, Hart County Sheriff’s Office, Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, Oglethorpe County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia Department of Corrections and Northeast Regional Drug Task Force in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia.

“Street drug gangs infest our communities with more than illicit drugs like ‘meth,’ as was the case in this investigation,” DEA Atlanta Field Division Special Agent in Charge Robert J. Murphy said. “They also spread gun violence and death. Operation Wu Block united federal, state and local law enforcement authorities in an effort to dismantle and destroy violent drug organizations that plagued a number of communities in middle Georgia. This case exemplifies how success can be achieved when law enforcement confront, engage and remove violent drug traffickers.”

“Operation Wu Block” resulted in the seizure of more than 58 kilograms of methamphetamine, more than two kilograms of heroin, 31 firearms and $56,000. Nineteen federal indictments charging a total of 68 defendants were returned by federal grand juries in the Middle District of Georgia. The charges range from conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine with a maximum sentence of life in prison; conspiracy with intent to distribute heroin with a maximum sentence of 40 years imprisonment; possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine or heroin with sentences ranging from a maximum 20 years to life in prison; distribution of methamphetamine or heroin with sentences ranging from 20 years to life in prison, depending on the amount of controlled substances charged; and, possession of a firearm in relation to drug trafficking with a maximum sentence of life in prison.

An indictment is only an allegation of criminal conduct, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendants, along with their current case status, are:

♦ Arguelles, Joey, 24, Hart County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Baza, Frankie, 32, Gwinnett County

♦ Bellew, Jason Monroe, 35, Elbert County (sentenced)

♦ Bennett, Byron, 41, Athens-Clarke County (awaiting sentencing)

♦ Bentley, Peggy, 48, Oconee County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Bishop, Latasha, 33, Athens-Clarke County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Booker, Chuckferrio, 30, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)

♦ Bray, Benjamin, 23, Madison County (sentenced)

♦ Carter, Haley, 21, Athens-Clarke County

♦ Casey, Jason, 38, Oconee County (sentenced)

♦ Clouse, Justin, 38, Athens-Clarke County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Coker, Joshua Wayne, 38, Hart County (sentenced)

♦ Coker, Larry Thomas, 34, Oconee County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Cook, Steven Mark, 32, Athens-Clarke County

♦ Cruz Sanchez, Mishel, 29, Gwinnett County

♦ Davis, Ashley, 26, Madison County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Duarte, Jasmin, 26, Oconee County (sentenced)

♦ Eddy, Crystal, 38, Athens-Clarke County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Elliott, Jeri Renee, 49, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)

♦ Espino, Juan, 45, Oconee County (sentenced)

♦ Fain, Angela, 48, Franklin County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Fain, William, 55, Franklin County (sentenced)

♦ Fowler, Thomas Joey, Hart County

♦ Gee, Jennifer, 33, Athens-Clarke County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Gowen, Howard Burnham, 50, Athens-Clarke County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Green, Jonathan, 34, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)

♦ Gresham, Cierra, 23, Athens-Clarke County

♦ Hancock, Maurice, 46, Barrow County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Hernandez, Lazaro, 28, Cobb County (fugitive)

♦ Hicks, Bruce, 39, Madison County (sentenced)

♦ Houseman Kristy Lynn, 40, Athens-Clarke County

♦ Howard, William Mathew, 45, Arlington, Va. (sentenced)

♦ Huckeba, Russel, 40, Gwinnett County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Jarrett, Kenneth Lee, 59, Pickens County

♦ Kelley, Ronald, 49, Madison County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Kraps, Jessica, 35, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)

♦ Leonard, Amy Laura, 51, Johnson City, Tenn. (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Maddox, Dwayne, 34, Athens-Clarke County

♦ Manley, Ashley Michelle, 25, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)

♦ Mata-Bustos, Esmeralda, 38, Gwinnett County (sentenced)

♦ McCullough, Daniel Keith, 27, Hart County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Melton, Kyle, 34, Athens-Clarke County

♦ Moon, Andrew, 31, Athens-Clarke County

♦ Moore, Chandler, 35, Bristol, Tenn. (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Moore, Rodney Lewis, 33, Athens-Clarke County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Moore, Scott, 39, Hart County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Morris, Mechelle, 44, Oglethorpe County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Mull, Madlyn Vista, 21, Hart County

♦ Mulligan, Gregory, 29, Athens-Clarke County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Mutch, Michelle, 27, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)

♦ Newsome, Greyson, 31, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)

♦ Paige, Audrey Lynn, 30, Athens-Clarke County

♦ Ramos, Cindy Isamara, 28, Cobb County

♦ Shaver, Mathew, 43, Oglethorpe County (sentenced)

♦ Silverio, Mario Alberto, 40, Cobb County

♦ Smith, Shana Leeanne, 31, Oconee County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Sterling, Kenneth, 50, Athens-Clarke County

♦ Sutton, Pamela Lynn, 38, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)

♦ Turbeville, Steven, 38, Barrow County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Turrubiartes Amaro, Ricardo, 22, Gwinnett County

♦ Wampler, Cecil, 35, Bristol, Tenn. (sentenced)

♦ Wheeler, Travis, 36, Athens-Clarke County

♦ Wolford, April, 29, Athens-Clarke County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)

♦ Wolford, Garrett, 33, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)

♦ Woodrum, Darien, 27, Athens-Clarke County

♦ Young, James Andrew, 26, Oglethorpe County

♦ Young, Ricky Keith, 32, Walton County

♦ Zavala, David, 28, Gordon County

“Operation Wu Block” is part of the larger “Operation Crystal Shield,” a national DEA operation first announced on Feb. 20 during a press conference in Atlanta. The investigation is focused on eight main methamphetamine trafficking transportation hubs across the nation, including Atlanta. Both are ongoing operations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamara Jarrett is prosecuting cases arising from this investigation for the government.

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