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Press Release

Leader, final defendant in Augusta-area drug trafficking conspiracy sentenced to nearly 13 years in federal prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Georgia
Operation distributed methamphetamine and heroin

AUGUSTA, GA:  The last of 10 defendants in an Augusta-area drug trafficking conspiracy has been sentenced to more than a decade in federal prison.

Justin Wayne Fields, 40, of Swainsboro, Ga., was sentenced to 168 months in prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, Methamphetamine and Heroin, said Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. U.S. District Court Chief Judge J. Randal Hall also fined Fields $2,500 and ordered him to serve three years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.

“Justin Fields and his network conspired with a Georgia state prison inmate to facilitate methamphetamine and heroin shipments from Atlanta to Richmond and Emanuel Counties,” said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. “The investigation and prosecution of this operation and a related conspiracy sent more than a dozen defendants to federal prison, removing their malign influence from our communities.”

As described in court documents and testimony, the investigations that led to the indictments of 10 defendants in USA v. Fields et. al in October 2022 and seven defendants in USA v. Wheatley et. al in April 2022, together dubbed Operation Wheat Fields, identified a conspiracy to transport and distribute large amounts of methamphetamine and heroin in the areas of Richmond and Emanuel counties.

The multi-agency investigation, led by the Swainsboro Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, identified a pipeline of illegal drugs from Mexico routed through Atlanta and into the greater Augusta area, facilitated by defendants that included those housed in Georgia prisons who used contraband devices to communicate via text message and Facebook. The investigation led to multiple searches of residences, vehicles, and hotel rooms that led to the seizure of illegal drugs and firearms.

Fields’ nine co-defendants, along with the seven defendants in the related indictment, all pled guilty to federal charges. Of the 17 defendants, 16 have been sentenced to terms of up to 240 months in federal prison for their roles in the conspiracies. They include:

  • Jayson Dwayne Wheatley, 42, of Augusta, sentenced to 240 months in prison. Wheatley was identified as the leader in the parallel conspiracy indicted in USA v. Wheatley et. al.
  • Joshua Brooks Woodward, 30, of Augusta, sentenced to 134 months in prison. Woodward, while an inmate in a Georgia state prison, used contraband cell phones to coordinate distribution from an Atlanta-area drug supplier to Fields and others in the conspiracy.
  • Elizabeth Sarah Hagan, 39, of Augusta, sentenced to 120 month in prison.  Hagan assisted Woodward with transporting money and buying drugs for which Woodward coordinated distribution.

“This sentence is a direct message to criminals that ATF will not allow egregious violations of our laws go unpunished,” said Beau Kolodka, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “If you traffic guns and drugs, you will be targeted, and we will ensure that you are prosecuted and removed from our streets.”

“Those who distribute deadly drugs, such as methamphetamine and heroin, create serious risks to our communities,” said Robert J. Murphy, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration Atlanta Division. DEA will use any resource necessary to remove these dangerous drug traffickers from our communities.”

“This sentencing shows that the GBI and our partners will not tolerate the nefarious acts of those who seek to traffic drugs in Georgia,” said Chris Hosey, Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. “These drugs poison our communities and destroy families. There is no place for illegal drugs in our state, and we will continue to work to remove them from our streets and keep our communities safe.“

The case was investigated under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (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.

Operation Wheat Fields was investigated by the Swainsboro Police Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Georgia Bureau of Investigation; the Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office; the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office; the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and is being prosecuted for the United States by Southern District of Georgia Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia G. Rhodes.


Barry L. Paschal, Public Affairs Officer: 912-652-4422

Updated February 14, 2024

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 11-24