SC grand jury indicts 34 accused in 2-state drug ring

Published: May. 18, 2022 at 11:54 AM EDT|Updated: May. 18, 2022 at 1:15 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina’s attorney general said an investigation into a drug ring operating in South Carolina and Georgia resulted in 124 criminal charges against 34 people.

Attorney General Alan Wilson said a joint investigation in the Upstate called “Los Banditos” alleges much of the drug trafficking was run and facilitated by the owners of the Los Primos restaurant located in Greenville, near an elementary school.

“The restaurant served not only food but served as the regional hub in which cocaine and methamphetamine were allegedly trafficked throughout South Carolina and other states in our region,” Wilson said. “Restaurant owners also allegedly operated taco trucks which they use to sell their drugs in that area.”

Wilson said the restaurant would eventually serve as a regional hub through which cocaine and methamphetamine were allegedly trafficked to other states.

The investigation revealed alleged connections to Mexican drug trafficking cartels operating in South Carolina and Georgia.

“Las Banditos” involved multiple agencies, local, state and federal, led to the indictments, along with the seizure of approximately $825,000 of methamphetamines, $70,000 of cocaine, approximately $63,000 in cash and more than 20 firearms.

“So it is a very robust operation that bled over into the state of Georgia,” Wilson said. “A large portion of those drugs are allegedly intended to be tracked over here in South Carolina.”

Wilson stressed that the people charged are presumed innocent until they are convicted in a court of law.

“With that being said, typically, drugs come across the United States’ southern border and are then transported to Atlanta, Georgia, which is the major drug hub for the southeast region of the United States,” Wilson said. “From there, they often come to South Carolina.”

The investigation led to additional seizures in Atlanta of approximately $15 million in methamphetamine, more than $400,000 of cocaine and more than $300,000 of heroin, he said.

Some of the cocaine seized, he said, was mixed with fentanyl.

“Now we all know what’s going on around this country and it’s bad enough when people are dealing in cocaine,” Wilson said. “And fentanyl is a deadly poison. And for those people out there who use drugs recreationally, don’t always assume that what you’re getting isn’t going to be laced with something that can kill you.”

Investigators determined that over time the two-state drug ring trafficked more than $75 million in meth, $12 million in cocaine and more than $200,000 in heroin, Wilson said.

A substantial portion of those seized drugs were allegedly intended for South Carolina, he said.

“This was a very large scale organized drug operation that allegedly was trafficking kilograms of drugs every week into Greenville County,” 13th Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins said.

State Grand Jury Division Chief Attorney Creighton Waters, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel, and representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, and law enforcement officers from Greenville and Pickens Counties, all of whom took part in the investigation, also attended the news conference.

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