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Press Release

Southern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney’s Office named in award for prosecutions targeting major drug trafficking operations

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Georgia
Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force lauds SDGA-USAO
Award winning group of people facing camera

Award recipients who attended the Atlanta ceremony for the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces Special Group Achievement Award include Blake Dill, with Customs and Border Protection (from left); Jacob Royal, with the Blackshear Police Department; Kristeena Jackson-Billiot, with the Drug Enforcement Administration; Barry Ripley, Georgia Ports Authority Police Department; Brandon Carver, Appling County Sheriff’s Office; AUSA Marcela Mateo; Jason Peters, DEA; Jason Kennedy, DEA; AUSA John Harper; Shawn Fields, Liberty County Sheriff’s Office; AUSA Frank Pennington; DEA Group Supervisor Deverron “Ram” Ramcheran; U.S. Attorney Jill Steinberg; and Linh Vuong, DEA.

SAVANNAH, GA:  Prosecutors with the Southern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney’s Office are among the recipients of an award celebrating success in investigating, prosecuting and dismantling major drug trafficking operations in Georgia and beyond.

U.S. Attorney Jill E. Steinberg announced receipt of the Special Group Achievement Award from the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces Southeast Region, recognizing the efforts of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force Group that includes the Southern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney’s Office. Three federal prosecutors – Assistant U.S. Attorney and OCDETF Coordinator Marcela C. Mateo, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frank M. Pennington II and John P. Harper III – are named in the award, along with individuals and task force officers from the Drug Enforcement Administration and local law enforcement agencies.

“This prestigious award recognizes the outstanding success of the collaborative efforts between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in disrupting regional and transnational drug trafficking and money laundering operations,” said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. “The award is a visible symbol of their unwavering commitment to keeping our communities safe.”

The Special Group Achievement Award recognizes a group of individuals who demonstrate a commitment to OCDETF’s mission and goals, including its principal strength in partnership through multi-agency cooperation.

The investigations and prosecutions named as part of the award are credited with the seizure of more than 2,200 kilos of cocaine; more than 18,000 kilos of marijuana; approximately 56 kilos of heroin; dozens of firearms; and approximately $13 million, with more than 60 defendants prosecuted as result of indictments from the investigations.

In addition to the prosecutors from the Southern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney’s Office, recipients of the award and their agencies at the time of the operations include DEA Group Supervisor Deverron M. Ramcheran, Intelligence Analyst Kristeena Jackson-Billiot, and special agents Lupersio Perez, Jason Peters, Linh Vuong, and Jason Kennedy; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Agent Harry D. Hamrick; Customs and Border Protection Agent Blake R. Dill; Georgia Ports Authority Police Department Investigator Barry T. Ripley; GBI Special Agent Nicholas K. McNeal; Chatham-Savannah County Narcotics Investigators Joseph Hood, with the Savannah Police Department, and Thomas Hicks, with the Thunderbolt Police Department; Investigators  Ryan Alexander with the Glynn County Sheriff’s Office, Shawn E. Fields with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, Robert L. Livingston with the Treutlen County Sheriff’s Office, Thimothy G. Burris with the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office, Brandon Carver with the Appling County Sheriff’s Office, and Michael Lewis with the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office; and Investigators Jacob T. Royal with the Blackshear Police Department, and Willie J. Tyler with the Richmond Hill Police Department.

Operations cited in the OCDETF award include:

Operation Apex: This investigation targeted a transnational criminal organization operating within the United States and abroad with activities ranging from harvest and distribution of shark fins and other illegal seafood products, and resulted in the seizure of tons of cocaine and marijuana, and more than $11 million in laundered proceeds including diamonds, gold, silver and jewelry. Twelve defendants were prosecuted as a result of the investigation.

Operation Hear My Train A-Comin’: Agents from the DEA and Homeland Security Investigations targeted a transnational criminal organization using container vessels to smuggle bulk quantities of cocaine and other illegal drugs from South America and the Caribbean to European ports by way of the Port of Savannah. The operation seized more than 1,200 kilos of cocaine and approximately $664,000 in cash.

Operation Snow Plow: In conjunction with the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team, this investigation targeted a major drug trafficking organization in the Savannah area, and resulted in 29 federal arrests from Georgia, Florida and Texas and the seizure of nearly 40 kilos of cocaine and other drugs, 38 firearms, nearly $600,000 in cash and 11 vehicles.   

Operation Monroe Doctrine: Centered in the greater Laurens County area, this operation seized nearly 20 pounds of methamphetamine, 86 firearms, nearly $50,000 in cash and resulted in the prosecution of 29 defendants on drug trafficking charges.

Operation Deadlier Catch: In collaboration with the FBI, this investigation in the Chatham County area resulted in nearly 60 arrests on drug trafficking charges, along with the seizure of more than 24 kilos of cocaine, 126 pounds of marijuana, three kilos of heroin, 14 firearms, and $1.5 million in cash and other assets.


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

Updated November 30, 2023

Drug Trafficking
Office and Personnel Updates
Press Release Number: 97-23