Federal indictment names 14 defendants in drug-distribution conspiracy coordinated from inside a Georgia prison

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

BRUNSWICK, GA:  A newly unsealed federal indictment charges 14 defendants in a south Georgia drug trafficking conspiracy alleged to have been directed from inside a Georgia state prison.

The indictment in Operation Pope’s G.O.A.L., an Organized Crime Drug Trafficking Task Force investigation, alleges the drug trafficking conspiracy distributed methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl since as early as 2018 in at least seven south Georgia counties, said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

All 14 defendants are charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and a quantity of Heroin and Fentanyl, a charge that carries a minimum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison, up to life, along with substantial fines and at least five years of supervised release following completion of any prison term.

There is no parole in the federal system.

“The use of contraband cell phones and other devices inside prisons for coordination of criminal activity outside prison walls is an increasing danger to our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Estes. “Our law enforcement partners, including the Georgia Department of Corrections, did outstanding work in identifying and infiltrating this network to bring an end to this illegal conspiracy.”

As described in U.S.A. v. Pope et. al, Operation Pope’s G.O.A.L. alleges the drug trafficking operation began as early as April 2018 and operated in Glynn, Brantley, Bacon, Pierce, Coffee, Camden, and Ware counties, and beyond. Those charged in the indictment include:

  • Jonathan Alvin Pope, 38, an inmate at Calhoun State Prison, charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and a quantity of Heroin and Fentanyl;
  • Christy Renee Pope, a/k/a Christy Renee Dowling, 42, an inmate at Pulaski State Prison, charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and a quantity of Heroin and Fentanyl;
  • Ashlee Pope, 32, of Waycross, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and a quantity of Heroin and Fentanyl;
  • Lena Leigh Davis, 45, of Homeland, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and a quantity of Heroin and Fentanyl; and, Conspiracy to Use, Carry, or Possess Firearms;
  • Jode Lee Weaver, 41, of Waycross, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and a quantity of Heroin and Fentanyl;
  • Jason Wildes, 40, an inmate at the Ware County Detention Center, charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and a quantity of Heroin and Fentanyl; and, Conspiracy to Use, Carry, or Possess Firearms;
  • Richard Reginald Perkins Jr., a/k/a “Reggie,” 46, of Nahunta, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and a quantity of Heroin and Fentanyl;
  • Joshua Lance Lee, 45, of Nahunta, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and a quantity of Heroin and Fentanyl;
  • Clark Bennett, 50, an inmate at Floyd County Prison, charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and a quantity of Heroin and Fentanyl; Conspiracy to Use, Carry, or Possess Firearms; Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime; and, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon;
  • Sara Elizabeth Laroche, 37, of Nahunta, Ga., charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and a quantity of Heroin and Fentanyl;
  • Kristina Ashley Montgomery, a/k/a Kristina Ashley Crews, 37, an inmate at the Brantley County Detention Center, charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and a quantity of Heroin and Fentanyl;
  • Tony Marvin Johns, 63, an inmate at the Brantley County Detention Center, charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and a quantity of Heroin and Fentanyl;
  • Michael Mancil, 45, an inmate at the Brantley County Detention Center, charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and a quantity of Heroin and Fentanyl; and,
  • James Edward Lane, 55, an inmate at the Dooley County Detention Center, charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and a quantity of Heroin and Fentanyl.

Criminal indictments contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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.

The investigation is being conducted by the Savannah Office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Georgia Department of Corrections Investigative Unit; the Brantley County Sheriff’s Office; the Ware County Sheriff’s Office; the Glynn County Sheriff’s Office; the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office; the Charlton County Sheriff’s Office; and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the Georgia State Patrol, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Noah J. Abrams and OCDETF Coordinator Marcela C. Mateo.