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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Georgia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Seventeen Charged in Drug Trafficking Ring that Operated from Inside Georgia State Correctional Facilities

ATLANTA – Three current Georgia Department of Corrections (GDOC) inmates and fourteen others have been charged federally for their roles in a wide-ranging drug trafficking conspiracy operating from within prison walls.  Using contraband cellular telephones inside of prison, and employing a network of brokers, distributers, and runners outside of prison, GDOC inmates controlled and managed the distribution of illegal narcotics throughout the Atlanta metropolitan area and the southeast region of the United States. 

“Once again, inmates have gained access to contraband cellular telephones and used them to organize and manage an extensive criminal enterprise from inside prison,” said U.S. Attorney John Horn.  “This indictment alleges that these inmates capitalized on their near unfettered access to cell phones to not only continue their criminal activities, but to direct the criminal activities of others outside of prison.  It makes no sense that, where prison is supposed to remove criminals from our community and rehabilitate them, the inmates continue to victimize society from behind prison bars.”

“This case clearly illustrates the growing problems stemming from cell phones within prison walls and in the hands of unrepentant inmates determined to further inflict harm on individual victims or the general public with their continued criminal activity.  Prisons should serve as a deterrent for those on both sides of its walls but cell phones, smart phones, or other such available contact with the outside world gives those individuals the unmitigated opportunity to conduct these criminal enterprises in a manner that is difficult at best for law enforcement to detect and neutralize and costly in terms of resources and manpower at worst,” said J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.

According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the indictment, and other information presented in court: The indictment alleges that GDOC prison inmates across several prisons conducted a wide-ranging drug trafficking conspiracy by leading, directing, and managing a wide-ranging drug trafficking conspiracy and the activities of brokers, distributers, and runners outside of prison via the use of contraband cellular telephones.  The cellular telephones were often equipped with touch screens and internet access that enabled prisoners to coordinate drug transactions.  Further, on numerous occasions, multiple cellular telephones were used simultaneously to communicate with the larger network of drug suppliers, distributers, and couriers using voice calls, text messages, and WhatsApp Messenger to coordinate illegal drug transactions. 

The following individuals have been indicted, and many of the defendants made their initial appearances before United States Magistrate Judge Linda T. Walker:

The GDOC inmates who were charged are:

  • Francisco Palacios Baras, a/k/a “Chapparro,” a/k/a “Shorty,” a/k/a “Kiko,” 36, an inmate at Hancock State Prison in Sparta, Georgia.Palacios Baras has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine and eleven counts of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

  • Johnathan Corey McLoon, a/k/a “Drop,” 30, an inmate at Valdosta State Prison in Valdosta, Georgia, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of actual methamphetamine and two counts of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

  • Christopher Wayne Hildebrand, 33, an inmate at Costal Transition Center in Savannah, Georgia has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of actual methamphetamine and one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

While they were inmates at Hancock State Prison, Valdosta State Prison and Costal Transition Center, Palacious, McLoon and Hildebrand allegedly obtained contraband cellular telephones and used them to lead and manage an extensive drug trafficking network responsible for the trafficking in crystal methamphetamine in the Atlanta and elsewhere.

A paroled GDOC inmate who was charged, and who allegedly participated in the drug trafficking network outside of prison is:

Ruben Antonio Ruiz, a/k/a “Scrapy,” a/k/a “Flaco,” 36, of Gainesville, Georgia.Ruiz has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of actual methamphetamine, and one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

The other individuals who were charged and participated in the drug trafficking network outside of prison are:

  • Salvador Pineda Melendez, a/k/a “Tomas Pineda Medoza,” 30, of Marietta, Georgia, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of actual methamphetamine, and two counts of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.
  • Olga Veronica Ramirez Reyes, 27, of Marietta, Georgia, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of actual methamphetamine, and five counts of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

  • Gustavo Adolfo Ramirez Reyes, a/k/a “Primo,” 24, of Marietta, Georgia, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of actual methamphetamine, and three counts of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

  • Jose Rolando Ramos Remez, 25, of Gainesville, Georgia, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 500 grams of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, and one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

  • Yony Israel Yanes Padilla, 26, of Gainesville, Georgia, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 500 grams of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, and one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

  • Troy Oneal Watkins, 46, of Roswell, Georgia, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of actual methamphetamine, and one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

  • Gregory Landon Smith, 55, of Plainville, Georgia, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of actual methamphetamine, and one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

  • Robert Lynn White, 55, of Silver Creek, Georgia, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of actual methamphetamine, and one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

  • Billy Joe Foster, 35, of Tennessee, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, and one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

  • George Travis Roach, 36, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, and one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

  • Melissa Leann Waters, 30, of Tennessee, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, and one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

  • Charles Randall Warthen, 52, of Mableton, Georgia, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least five grams of actual methamphetamine, and one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

  • Walter Alvarado Lopez, a/k/a “Andy,” 28, of Atlanta, Georgia, has been charged with one count of conspiring to distribute at least five grams of actual methamphetamine, and one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges.  The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant United States Attorney Tasheika Hinson is prosecuting the case.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta recommends parents and children learn about the dangers of drugs at the following web site: www.justthinktwice.com.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

Topic: 
Drug Trafficking
Updated January 13, 2016