Sheriff Terrell: Major Mexican drug cartel pipeline ran through Habersham County

Editor's Note: Suspects not shown were already in custody and include Jose Alfredo Miranda Chavez, Noah Coker, Juan Antonio Flores, Robert Green, Pablo Martinez, Ashley Parker, Joshua Ray Phillips, Brianne Ross Rummell, Jeffrey Shane Seabolt, Anthony Williams.

The major drug trafficking organization brought down by a joint federal, state, and local drug investigation had deep roots in Habersham County. Sixteen of the 48 suspects arrested for their alleged involvement with the drug ring are from Habersham, including two of the alleged ring leaders.

Officials say 43-year-old Luther Troy Summerfield of Alto and 30-year-old Alejandro Ceja-Solano of Mt. Airy were among those at the helm of an organization that distributed drugs across North Georgia.

Summerfield
Ceja-Solano

Investigators say Summerfield purchased kilos of methamphetamine from Ceja-Solano and obtained meth and heroin from Atlanta area suppliers and then distributed the drugs in the region. Ceja-Solano allegedly was supplying the drugs from his residence in Mt. Airy.

“This was a major pipeline that led directly to a large cartel in Mexico.” – Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell

The fourteen other suspects identified by officials as Habersham County residents are:

  • Tanya Lynn Allison, age 48, of Alto
  • Joshua Collins of Cornelia (already in custody)
  • Kevin Cosper of Baldwin
  • Brandi Nicole Freeman of Cornelia
  • Roger Dale Gerrin, age 62, of Alto
  • Dustin Floyd Groves of Alto
  • Jerry Lee Helton of Baldwin
  • Crystal Marie Herrin of Cornelia
  • Brooke Barron Hicks of Alto
  • Richard Jason Maddox of Mt. Airy
  • Shayna Millwood of Alto
  • Allie Murray of Cornelia
  • William Harrison Nicely of Alto
  • Jessie Elaine Smith of Alto

Agents charged the suspects with violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act. They also face additional charges for their alleged involvement in what GBI Director Vic Reynolds describes as “a major, major methamphetamine, heroin trafficking distribution ring.”

During the 11-month long investigation, officers arrested 48 people and seized approximately 50 kilograms of methamphetamine, a half-kilogram of heroin, 20 firearms, $70,000 in cash, and six vehicles. (GBI)

The Habersham County Sheriff’s Office was heavily involved in the investigation because some of the major players were either from Habersham or consistently traveled through Habersham.

“This was a major pipeline that led directly to a large cartel in Mexico,” Sheriff Joey Terrell tells Now Habersham. “Taking them out of the game is a major victory for not only Habersham County but all of Northeast Georgia.”

Terrell says disrupting the pipeline caused “a very big dent in their operation.”

“Drugs are all about supply and demand. This supply is now all dried up. As a result, the demand will automatically be affected,” he says.

Alto drug raid

The joint investigation relates to a drug raid in Alto in April when two suspected heroin dealers, Brooke Hicks and Christopher Abbott, were allowed to walk after being taken into custody. The Habersham County Sheriff’s Office released them at the request of the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office (ARDEO). At the time, authorities remained quiet about why they did that. With Friday’s announcement, it became clear.

Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell speaks during a GBI press conference on Operation Taking Care of Business on July 10, 2020.

“Had we arrested those subjects at that time, it would have put the other individuals on notice and would have significantly hampered the success of the overall operation,” Sheriff Terrell explains.

Terrell says today’s announcement and the 11-month long investigation that preceded it sends a message “that we’re not going to tolerate what’s been going on in our communities.”

During the course of their investigation, law enforcement agencies executed twelve search warrants. They seized around 50 Kilos of methamphetamine, about a half-Kilo of heroin, 20 firearms, six cars, and approximately $70,000 in cash.

During the investigation, officials say they discovered a conversion lab used to turn liquid methamphetamine into street meth. (GBI)

They also discovered a conversion lab where individuals were converting liquid methamphetamine into the meth distributed on the street.

The estimated street value of the drugs seized so far is $705,000. There could be more.

“I don’t think we’re through,” says Director Reynolds. “The agents are still working. They’re still out on the street, so, it would not surprise me if we end up seeing more individuals arrested.”

“Not just a drug bust”

Reynolds credits the interagency cooperation among area sheriff’s offices and police departments, the GBI, and FBI with the operation’s success. He and others present at Friday’s press conference in Gainesville said it could not have been accomplished without the help of all of the agencies involved. The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office was among them. Sheriff Ron Freeman stressed the importance of the “big picture.”

Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman, flanked by the sheriffs of Hall, Habersham, Stephens, and White counties – says Operation Taking Care of Business was more than a drug bust, it “saved lives.”

“This is not just a drug bust, this is a disruption of a criminal element. These things trickle down. They create violent crime. They create property crime. They create things that disrupt our communities,” Freeman said. “We didn’t just take drugs off the street, what we did is we saved lives.”

As the investigation continues, investigators are now preparing for court. Reynolds says, “We feel very good about the cases, where they’re at, where they’re headed, and we expect prosecution to be very aggressive and assertive in this case.”

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