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150 arrested for allegedly using drones to transport drugs, guns, cellphones into Georgia prisons

150 arrested for allegedly using drones to transport drugs, guns, cellphones into Georgia prisons

A monthslong probe into an alleged drone-based contraband operation in Georgia's prisons has led to the arrest of 150 people, including eight correction officers, officials said.

The investigation, dubbed "Operation Skyhawk," uncovered that drones were being used to move cellphones, drugs and weapons into Georgia Department of Corrections facilities, according to the governor's office.

PHOTO: Items seized during an investigation into contraband are seen in a photo released by the Georgia Department of Corrections. (Georgia Department of Corrections)
PHOTO: Items seized during an investigation into contraband are seen in a photo released by the Georgia Department of Corrections. (Georgia Department of Corrections)

Search and arrest warrants were served at two locations in the Metro Atlanta area on Thursday as part of the investigation, "effectively shutting down a sophisticated, multi-state criminal enterprise that included civilians, inmates, and staff," the governor's office said in a press release.

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Among the 150 suspects arrested were eight Georgia Department of Corrections employees who were "immediately terminated," the state said.

The more than 1,000 total charges in the case stem from contraband introduction, drug trafficking and felons in possession of firearms, the governor's office said. Many of those arrested may also face charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and gang charges in what could be the largest gang RICO case in Georgia's history, the office said.

"Georgia will not tolerate those who put our communities at risk by trafficking drugs, weapons, and contraband both in and out of our correctional facilities," Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement.

PHOTO: Items seized during an investigation into contraband are seen in a photo released by the Georgia Department of Corrections. (Georgia Department of Corrections)
PHOTO: Items seized during an investigation into contraband are seen in a photo released by the Georgia Department of Corrections. (Georgia Department of Corrections)

Items confiscated as part of the operation included 87 drones, 273 contraband cellphones and 22 weapons, as well as large amounts of tobacco, marijuana, methamphetamine, ecstasy and cocaine, the governor's office said.

"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," Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Tyrone Oliver said in a statement.

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The investigation began in November 2022, Georgia Department of Corrections special agent Gregg Phillips told Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB.

"We stopped roughly 170 prison drops during the course of this investigation," Phillips told the station.

PHOTO: In this Sept. 20, 2011, file photo, officers with the Georgia Department of Corrections check a vehicle at the entrance to the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, in Jackson, Georgia. (Erik S. Lesser/AFP via Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: In this Sept. 20, 2011, file photo, officers with the Georgia Department of Corrections check a vehicle at the entrance to the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, in Jackson, Georgia. (Erik S. Lesser/AFP via Getty Images, FILE)

The raids conducted Thursday involved a drone repair shop in Gwinnett County, authorities said. More than 50 drones were seized and two people were arrested, reported WSB, which was at the scene of the raids.

Prosecutors are working with Georgia Department of Corrections special agents to ask grand juries across the state to return RICO and gang indictments against many of the suspects, WSB reported.

150 arrested for allegedly using drones to transport drugs, guns, cellphones into Georgia prisons originally appeared on abcnews.go.com