Prison sentence wraps up prosecution of middle Georgia drug trafficking conspiracy

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

SAVANNAH, GA:  With a sentence handed down in U.S. District Court, the final defendant in a drug trafficking conspiracy joins more than two dozen people sent to prison for distributing methamphetamine and cocaine in middle Georgia.

Donnie Edmonds, a/k/a “Hotboy,” 37, of Vidalia, Ga., was sentenced to 151 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute, Methamphetamine and Cocaine, said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker also ordered Edmonds to serve three years of supervised release after completion of his prison sentence. There is no parole in the federal system.

“Operation Ace in the Hole is an outstanding example of multiple law enforcement agencies working together to target addictive drugs, gang violence and illegal firearms in the Southern District,” said U.S. Attorney Estes. “It is a credit to the meticulous work of these agencies that every single defendant admitted guilt and is being held accountable. This office will be relentless in pursuit of illegal drugs and violent crime in this District.”

Operation Ace in the Hole, an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, was initiated in August 2018 in response to increasing levels of gang violence and drug-related activities in the Vidalia area.

In June 2019, investigators executed search warrants at eight houses used for stashing or distributing illegal drugs in Atlanta and Vidalia, seizing more than two kilos of cocaine, four kilos of marijuana, half a kilo of methamphetamine, more than two kilos of MDMA (“Ecstasy”), multiple pints of Codeine, 600 grams of Xanax, pill presses, and surveillance equipment. The drugs were hidden in such items as children’s backpacks and baby-formula bottles. Investigators also seized 20 firearms, including a fully automatic machine gun and several assault-style rifles, along with a trove of gang-related documents and nearly $50,000 in cash.

The investigation culminated in a sealed, 61-count federal indictment returned in January 2020 with 26 defendants charged.

The operation’s name, “Ace in the Hole,” was derived from the alias of Justin Adams, a/k/a “Ace,” 41, of Vidalia, who previously was sentenced to 165 months in prison after pleading guilty in the conspiracy. Adams was a regional leader in the Gangster Disciples criminal street gang, and conspired with the primary supplier of the organization’s narcotics, Deltinaud Toussaint, a/k/a “Black,” a/k/a “Tino,” a/k/a “Tino Black,” 45, of Vidalia. Toussaint also pled guilty in the conspiracy and is serving a sentence of 240 months in prison.

Edmonds was a mid-level drug dealer in the organization, buying “crack” cocaine and “ice”-grade methamphetamine from Toussaint for resale to individual users and street-level drug dealers. Like many of the defendants in the conspiracy, Edmonds has a long criminal history, including convictions for drug sales and possession.

Each of the 26 defendants charged in the indictment pled guilty to felony charges, and all have now been sentenced.

“The epidemic of opioids and gun violence is not just limited to the big cities as it affects all communities across our nation” said Beau Kolodka, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “The net result of Operation Ace in the Hole is that our communities will be safer as these violent drug traffickers are headed to Federal prison.”

“This drug dealer received a very significant sentence because of his role in the distribution of large quantities of illegal drugs across Middle Georgia,” said Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Atlanta Field Division. “The DEA and its multi-level law enforcement partners are committed to making communities safer by targeting violent criminal enterprises that wreak havoc on our society.”

“This sentencing ends an exhaustive investigation that stopped a conspiracy that was compounding the opioid epidemic and plaguing the streets of our community with crime,” said Philip Wislar, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI would like to thank our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners who meticulously worked with us on this case.  They should be proud of the results and know that the citizens in our neighborhoods are safer today because of their hard work and determination.”  

“We are committed to working with our partners to get dangerous guns and drugs off the streets,” said Vic Reynolds, Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). “We will not allow gangs to continue to terrorize neighborhoods with hardworking citizens that want to raise their families in a safe environment.”

The OCDETF case was investigated by the ATF, the DEA, the FBI, the GBI, the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, the Toombs County Sheriff’s Office, the Lyons Police Department, the Oconee Drug Task Force, and the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, and is being prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney E. Greg Gilluly Jr.