Georgia News

“Operation Wu Block” defendant pleads guilty

ATHENS, Ga. – A defendant charged in an ongoing, large-scale drug trafficking investigation dubbed “Operation Wu Block,” has pleaded guilty for her crime, said Charlie Peeler, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.

Latasha Bishop, 33, of Athens-Clarke County, pleaded guilty to one count distribution of methamphetamine before U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal on Wednesday, July 8. Bishop faces a maximum 20 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine and four years supervised release. Her sentencing date has not been scheduled. A total of 68 individuals were charged with related drug and gun crimes as a result of “Operation Wu Block.” To date, 45 have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced or are awaiting sentencing. There is no parole in the federal system. Lazaro Hernandez, 28, of Cobb County, remains at-large, charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute heroin.

“Street drug gangs infest our communities with more than illicit drugs like ‘Meth,’ as was the case in this investigation. They also spread gun violence and death. Operation Wu Block united federal, state and local law enforcement authorities in an effort to dismantle and destroy violent drug organizations that plagued a number of communities in middle Georgia. This case exemplifies how success can be achieved when law enforcement confront, engage and remove violent drug traffickers,” DEA Atlanta Field Division Special Agent in Charge Robert J. Murphy.

“We are moving swiftly to crack down on criminals involved in pushing methamphetamine into our communities across the Middle District of Georgia,” said U.S. Attorney Charlie Peeler. “I want to commend the excellent work of all the agencies involved in this massive OCDETF investigation. Meth suppliers and sellers will face federal prosecution, and the possibility of up to life in prison without parole, for choosing to traffic meth.”

“This investigation resulted in the removal of drugs, guns, money and over 60 defendants from our streets, which had an immediate impact on our communities,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Bishop is another of those defendants who is now being held accountable for endangering the people who live in those communities.”

“Operation Wu Block” is a multi-year Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation conducted by the DEA Macon Resident Office, FBI Middle Georgia Safe Streets Gang Task Force, Athens-Clarke County Police Department, Clarke County Sheriff’s Office, Hart County Sheriff’s Office, Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, Oglethorpe County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia Department of Corrections and Northeast Regional Drug Task Force in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia.

“Operation Wu Block” resulted in the seizure of more than 58 kilograms of methamphetamine, more than two kilograms of heroin, 31 firearms and $56,000. 19 federal indictments charging a total of 68 defendants were returned by federal grand juries in the Middle District of Georgia. The charges range from conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine with a maximum sentence of life in prison; conspiracy with intent to distribute heroin with a maximum sentence of 40 years imprisonment; possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine or heroin with sentences ranging from a maximum twenty years to life in prison; distribution of methamphetamine or heroin with sentences ranging from twenty years to life in prison, depending on the amount of controlled substances charged; and, possession of a firearm in relation to drug trafficking with a maximum sentence of life in prison. An indictment is only an allegation of criminal conduct, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendants, along with their current case status, are as follows (last name, first name):

  1. Arguelles, Joey, 24, Hart County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  2. Baza, Frankie, 32, Gwinnett County
  3. Bellew, Jason Monroe, 35, Elbert County (sentenced)
  4. Bennett, Byron, 41, Athens-Clarke County (awaiting sentencing)
  5. Bentley, Peggy, 48, Oconee County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  6. Bishop, Latasha, 33, Athens-Clarke County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  7. Booker, Chuckferrio, 30, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)
  8. Bray, Benjamin, 23, Madison County (sentenced)
  9. Carter, Haley, 21, Athens-Clarke County
  10. Casey, Jason, 38, Oconee County (sentenced)
  11. Clouse, Justin, 38, Athens-Clarke County  (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  12. Coker, Joshua Wayne, 38, Hart County (sentenced)
  13. Coker, Larry Thomas, 34, Oconee County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  14. Cook, Steven Mark, 32, Athens-Clarke County
  15. Cruz Sanchez, Mishel, 29, Gwinnett County
  16. Davis, Ashley, 26, Madison County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  17. Duarte, Jasmin, 26, Oconee County (sentenced)
  18. Eddy, Crystal, 38, Athens-Clarke County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  19. Elliott, Jeri Renee, 49, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)
  20. Espino, Juan, 45, Oconee County (sentenced)
  21. Fain, Angela, 48, Franklin County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  22. Fain, William, 55, Franklin County (sentenced)
  23. Fowler, Thomas Joey, Hart County
  24. Gee, Jennifer, 33, Athens-Clarke County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  25. Gowen, Howard Burnham, 50, Athens-Clarke County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  26. Green, Jonathan, 34, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)
  27. Gresham, Cierra, 23, Athens-Clarke County
  28. Hancock, Maurice, 46, Barrow County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  29. Hernandez, Lazaro, 28, Cobb County (fugitive)
  30. Hicks, Bruce, 39, Madison County (sentenced)
  31. Houseman Kristy Lynn, 40, Athens-Clarke County
  32. Howard, William Mathew, 45, Arlington, Virginia (sentenced)
  33. Huckeba, Russel, 40, Gwinnett County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  34. Jarrett, Kenneth Lee, 59, Pickens County
  35. Kelley, Ronald, 49, Madison County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  36. Kraps, Jessica, 35, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)
  37. Leonard, Amy Laura, 51, Johnson City, Tennessee (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  38. Maddox, Dwayne, 34, Athens-Clarke County
  39. Manley, Ashley Michelle, 25, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)
  40. Mata-Bustos, Esmeralda, 38, Gwinnett County (sentenced)
  41. McCullough, Daniel Keith, 27, Hart County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  42. Melton, Kyle, 34, Athens-Clarke County
  43. Moon, Andrew, 31, Athens-Clarke County
  44. Moore, Chandler, 35, Bristol, Tennessee (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  45. Moore, Rodney Lewis, 33, Athens-Clarke County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  46. Moore, Scott, 39, Hart County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  47. Morris, Mechelle, 44, Oglethorpe County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  48. Mull, Madlyn Vista, 21, Hart County
  49. Mulligan, Gregory, 29, Athens-Clarke County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  50. Mutch, Michelle, 27, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)
  51. Newsome, Greyson, 31, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)
  52. Paige, Audrey Lynn, 30, Athens-Clarke County
  53. Ramos, Cindy Isamara, 28, Cobb County
  54. Shaver, Mathew, 43, Oglethorpe County (sentenced)
  55. Silverio, Mario Alberto, 40, Cobb County
  56. Smith, Shana Leeanne, 31, Oconee County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  57. Sterling, Kenneth, 50, Athens-Clarke County
  58. Sutton, Pamela Lynn, 38, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)
  59. Turbeville, Steven, 38, Barrow County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  60. Turrubiartes Amaro, Ricardo, 22, Gwinnett County
  61. Wampler, Cecil, 35, Bristol, Tennessee (sentenced)
  62. Wheeler, Travis, 36, Athens-Clarke County
  63. Wolford, April, 29, Athens-Clarke County (pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing)
  64. Wolford, Garrett, 33, Athens-Clarke County (sentenced)
  65. Woodrum, Darien, 27, Athens-Clarke County
  66. Young, James Andrew, 26, Oglethorpe County
  67. Young, Ricky Keith, 32, Walton County
  68. Zavala, David, 28, Gordon County

“Operation Wu Block,” an OCDETF-led investigation, is part of the larger “Operation Crystal Shield,” a national DEA operation first announced on February 20, 2020 during a press conference in Atlanta. The investigation is focused on eight main methamphetamine trafficking transportation hubs across the nation, including Atlanta. Both are on-going operations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamara Jarrett is prosecuting cases arising from this investigation for the Government. Questions can be directed to Pamela Lightsey, Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 621-2603 or Melissa Hodges, Public Affairs Director (Contractor), United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 765-2362.

The DEA encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.justhinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com, www.campusdrugprevention.org and www.dea.gov. Also follow DEA Atlanta via Twitter at @DEAATLANTADiv.

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