54 indicted in “Prison Empire”

Here’s an announcement from the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office: “In June of 2018, agents with Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, along with numerous Upstate Law Enforcement Agencies, the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), and the State Grand Jury Division of the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, initiated a State Grand Jury investigation into a large scale drug trafficking operation in the Upstate of South Carolina. The investigation quickly grew to include the Midlands region of South Carolina, and involved areas outside of the state. This investigation originated out of previous case that was investigated by many of these same Law Enforcement Agencies, and prosecuted by the State Grand Jury Division of the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office. This investigation is code named “Prison Empire”. It was given this name because a large part of this drug trafficking organization is operated by convicted inmates that are currently serving active prison sentences inside the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC). This investigation revealed that the criminal organization, which included both SCDC inmates and their codefendants on the streets, were responsible for having trafficked over 500 kilograms of methamphetamine, and multiple kilograms of heroin and cocaine, most of which were destined for locations in the Upstate of South Carolina. The assessed street values of these illegal drugs are estimated to be in excess of $20,000,000.00. In addition to illegal drugs, the investigation resulted in the seizure of over 40 firearms from street contacts, as well as numerous contraband cellular telephones possessed by inmates within the South Carolina Department of Corrections. Unfortunately, this investigation highlights an ongoing issue that both Law Enforcement and Corrections Officers deal with on a daily basis; the fact that SCDC inmates routinely gain access to cellular telephones. On an increasingly frequent basis, we are finding that the conviction of an offender does not lead to an end of their nefarious activities and their victimization of our communities. Instead, technological advances in cellular telephones have allowed incarcerated subjects to not only remain connected with their pre-existing criminal networks, but to expand upon them once inside of prison. Cellular telephones are the conduit by which communication, counter surveillance, and financial transactions are facilitated; without them inside of the prison system, the need for this investigation would likely not exist. As a result of this very extensive investigation, 54 people have been indicted on 192 counts. Several of the defendants are inmates presently incarcerated in prisons throughout the state. This case has particular importance to the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and the citizens of Pickens County since a large number of those indicted are either from Pickens County or have direct ties to the county. Therefore, this operation represents the continued commitment of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office; and all the Law Enforcement Agencies involved, to combating the illicit drug trade and substance abuse within all our communities. “Prison Empire” crossed multiple jurisdictional boundaries and affected communities throughout South Carolina; hence we would like to recognize not only our agents, who continue to work tirelessly on this investigation, but all the Agencies and their agents, who pulled together to make this type of investigation possible. In particular, we would like to recognize the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the Greenville County Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Enforcement Unit (GCMJDU), the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, the Edgefield County Sheriff’s Office, the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office, the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office, the Easley Police Department, the Liberty Police Department, the Pickens Police Department, the South Carolina Department of Corrections’ Division of Police Services, the South Carolina National Guard Governor’s Counterdrug Task Force, and the State Grand Jury Division of the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office. Each agency played a critical role in this investigation, without their professionalism and dedication we would have been unable to successfully attain these indictments. The defendants in this investigation were indicted through the State Grand Jury and all who are in custody have been transported to the Greenville County Detention Center for booking and bond hearings. Some of the trials will be held in the Pickens County Courthouse. The cases will be prosecuted by the State Grand Jury Division of the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office. ‘It is unacceptable that in the year 2019, we cannot legally jam inmates’ contraband cell phones,” said Bryan Stirling, director of the S.C. Department of Corrections. “The technology exists to stop them. It’s time for Congress to let us do so.'”