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Press Release

North Carolina Man with a Violent Criminal Past is Convicted of Armed Heroin Trafficking in Athens, Georgia

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Georgia

ATHENS, Ga. – A North Carolina man with a violent criminal history was convicted by a federal jury today on charges related to armed heroin trafficking in the Athens community.

Nathaniel Hilliard III, 37, of Raleigh, North Carolina, was found guilty of one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, three counts of distribution of heroin and one count of failure to appear today following a three-day trial that began on Feb. 7 before U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal. Hilliard faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of distribution of heroin and a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine for both possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and failure to appear.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, local and federal agents were investigating armed drug trafficking in the Athens community in May 2016. Hilliard sold an FBI confidential informant (CI) a .38 special revolver and several small quantities of heroin between May 23-25, 2016, at the Rolling Ridge Apartments in Athens. All of the buys were audio and video recorded, and one occurred in the presence of what appeared to be a preschool-aged child. Hilliard has prior convictions for conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon and assault by strangulation out of North Carolina.

While on pretrial release, Hilliard was living in North Carolina and being supervised by a U.S. Probation Officer (P.O.) in the Western District of North Carolina. On April 7, 2022, Hilliard’s P.O. advised him to make sure he appeared in court for his pretrial conference in Athens on April 13, 2022, but Hilliard was uncooperative and did not show up to a requested meeting with his P.O. the next day. He also failed to appear at his pretrial conference in Athens. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest and Hilliard was located on July 8, 2022, after he was arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina, on domestic violence charges.

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at

The case was investigated by the FBI Athens Middle Georgia Safe Streets Gang Task Force, Northeast Georgia Regional Drug Task Force and the Athens Clarke County Police Department Gang Unit. 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mike Morrison and Tamara Jarrett.

Updated March 17, 2023

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses