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150 arrested in major weapons, drug bust at Georgia prisons

Officials say suspects, including prison staff, used drones to transport drugs, weapons and cell phones in and out of correctional facilities.
Silhouette of a prison fence and watchtower as the sun sets
Posted at 12:45 PM, Apr 01, 2024

A monthslong criminal investigation in Georgia led to the arrest of 150 people — including eight correctional officers — who are accused of using drones to transport drugs, weapons and cell phones in and out of prison facilities.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said in a press release that the effort was led by the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Safe Streets Gang Task Force, who served search warrants at two facilities Thursday that shut down a "sophisticated, multi-state criminal enterprise that included civilians, inmates, and staff involved in contraband introduction into GDC facilities."

The probe, called Operation Skyhawk, found that suspects used drones to facilitate their smuggling ring. Authorities confiscated drugs and other contraband — which included drones, cell phones, tobacco, marijuana, methamphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine and other pills — worth a combined street value of over $7 million.

More than 1,000 criminal charges have been filed, according to Kemp's office. Eight prison employees were terminated following their arrests. 

"The success of Operation Skyhawk should be a reminder to anyone inside or outside our prisons that we have zero tolerance and will take swift action against those who threaten the safe operations of our facilities and the safety of the public," GDC Commissioner Tyrone Oliver said in a press release.

"Our reach is far and wide, not just within the walls of our facilities, and I stand by my words from over a year ago, that this activity will not be tolerated. I am immensely proud of our agents for their commitment to seeing that these individuals are brought to justice," he said.

The Georgia governor's office said it is believed prisons in other states may also have been impacted by the same criminal enterprise.