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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Career criminal sentenced to prison for methamphetamine trafficking, weapons possession

Repeat offender plead guilty to charges from Operation Vanilla Gorilla

SAVANNAH, GA: A Bryan County man who was part of the gang and drug trafficking conspiracy prosecuted under Operation Vanilla Gorilla has been sentenced to nearly 16 years in federal prison.

Jessie Ray Hurt, 40, of Ellabell, Ga., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore, Jr., to 188 months in prison to be followed by four years of supervised release, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. There is no parole in the federal prison system.

Hurt, a convicted felon, was indicted in August 2018 by a federal grand jury as part of Operation Vanilla Gorilla, an investigation targeting the Ghost Face Gangsters, a violent, white supremacist street gang operated largely from inside Georgia’s prison system. Hurt pled guilty in October 2018 to Possession of 5 Grams or More of Methamphetamine and Possession of a Firearm by a convicted felon. 

According to facts presented in public records, court proceedings, and court filings, federal, state and local enforcement identified Hurt as a member of a drug trafficking organization through undercover purchases of methamphetamine and a search of Hurt’s home. During the search, investigators found a handgun, prescription narcotics, and a large quantity of methamphetamine hidden in a compartment in the floor of Hurt’s bedroom. Police also seized two shotguns, four rifles, a bucket of ammunition, and drug trafficking paraphernalia.

Hurt’s criminal history spans 21 years, with convictions on charges ranging from driving under the influence to multiple convictions for possession, manufacturing and trafficking methamphetamine, and illegal firearms possession. Most recently, he was released from state prison after serving three years of a total 16-year sentence for violating probation, manufacturing, and possessing methamphetamine, and illegal firearms possession. 

“Our communities deserve better than to be victimized repeatedly by career criminals who seem to serve only fractions of their sentences before returning to the streets and to their illegal activities,” said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. “This sentence of nearly 16 years in federal prison means Jessie Ray Hurt will serve real time for his crimes, because there is no parole in the federal prison system.”

“This sentence will ensure the incarceration of a dangerous criminal and contribute to the restoration of order and peace,” said Beau Kolodka, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Far too many criminals take advantage of the overburdened state penal system that provides them ample opportunity to avoid serious prison time by routinely being let out early after serving only a fraction of their court ordered sentence,” said Jamie Jones, Special Agent in Charge of the Southeastern Regional Drug Enforcement Office of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. “Hurt’s refusal to learn from his prior bad choices and own personal desire to continue his criminal lifestyle has finally caught up to him. Almost 16 years of confinement in the federal prison system will certainly provide him ample opportunity to ponder his decision to continue a life of crime.”

This case was prosecuted as an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) case by AUSAs Greg Gilluly and Tania Groover. The OCDETF program is the premier United States Department of Justice enforcement mechanism to identify and dismantle drug trafficking organizations.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Violent Crime
Contact: 
For any questions, please contact Barry Paschal at the United States Attorney’s Office at (912) 652-4422.
Press Release Number: 
16-19
Updated February 13, 2019