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Three Bryan County residents enter guilty pleas in Operation Vanilla Gorilla

Three Bryan County residents indicted by a federal grand jury in 2018 on drug trafficking and firearms charges entered guilty pleas in federal court, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Savannah.

The three are among 46 people facing charges as a result of Operation Vanilla Gorilla, a law enforcement operation that reportedly targeted Ghost Face Gangsters, a street gang reported to be operated largely inside Georgia’s prison system.

Pleading guilty from Bryan County were Miranda Burnsed, 32, of Pembroke; Raymond Warren, 47, of Ellabell and Jessie Hurt, 40, of Ellabell, authorities said. 

Burnsed pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a quantity of methamphetamine and faces up to 20 years. Hurt pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute a quantity of methamphetamine with intent and felon in possession of a firearm. He faces at least five years up to life. Warren faces up to 24 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to felon in possession of a firearm, according to officials. 

Seven other Bryan County residents were indicted in November, including Tyler Shuman, 25, Pembroke; Robert Fuller, 39, Richmond Hill; Andrew P. Campos, 28, Richmond Hill; Jennifer J. Grooms, 36, Ellabell; Cynthia Miracle, 48, Ellabell; Waylon Jesse Hodges, 41, Pembroke; and Marcus Logan Grego, 28 Richmond Hill. 

The status of their cases has not been released. 

Authorities said the drug trafficking conspiracy began as early as 2015 in Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, Emmanuel, Evans and Tattnall counties along with other street gangs,  “to aid in the distribution of controlled substances, for protection, and to promote a climate of fear,” according to a press release announcing the guilty pleas.

The court proceedings of three defendants have been sealed due to safety concerns, according to officials.

In all, 16 of 46 defendants charged in the case have pleaded guilty, according to Bobby Christine, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Among them were the lead defendant, David McCloskey, 47, of Augusta, who faced a number of drug and weapons charges. 

“These guilty pleas are a credit to the hard work of law enforcement agents and prosecutors in bringing charges against this violent street gang,” Christine said. “The strong coordination of federal, state and local law enforcement will continue to identify, target and dismantle these gangs as we work together to make our communities safer.”

“ATF will continue to dedicate federal resources in conjunction with those crucial law enforcement contributions of local agencies to the pursuit of eradicating and forestalling criminal gang activity,” said Beau Kolodka, assistant special agent in charge of the Atlanta field division of the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Robert J. Murphy, the special agent in charge of the DEA’s Atlanta field division said, “DEA, its law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office eradicated a violent and notoriously dangerous street gang who trafficked drugs. This gang wreaked havoc by distributing methamphetamine while leaving a destructive path of violence along the way. Today, we are proud to have shut down this once-thriving criminal network. I want to thank our federal, state and local law enforcement counterparts who aided in making these guilty pleas possible.” 

Operation Vanilla Gorilla was investigated under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces, the centerpiece of the United States Attorney General’s drug strategy to reduce the availability of drugs by disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and related criminal enterprises, according to a press release. 

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Chatham County Narcotics Team, the Georgia Department of Corrections Intelligence Division, the Savannah Police Department, the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, the Bryan County Sheriff’s Office, the Richmond Hill Police Department, the Pooler Police Department, the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office and the Bloomingdale Police Department, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys E. Greg Gilluly Jr. and Frank Pennington.



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