HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WLBT) - It was still dark when federal agents began knocking on doors and picking up suspects in Hattiesburg Tuesday morning.
“Boots are on the ground. In the mud, in the muck, in the ditch, doing the necessary work for justice to be done,” said U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst.
Hattiesburg Police Department, the Forrest County Sheriff’s Department, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, and the ATF, to name a few of those boots.
For months, agents and detectives worked cases that led to what was ultimately a large drug haul.
“As usual, in South Mississippi, our top priority is targeting violent offenders,” ATF Supervisory Special Agent Jason Denham said. “So narcotics off the street, that’s nice, guns off the street are nice, but we really want to focus on the worst of the worst offenders.”
Authorities picked up Georgio Scott at his home on an indictment for being a felon in possession of a firearm. But one agent says that’s not all he appears to have been up to.
“We also found some other federal criminal violations inside his house and we’re actively pursuing some other charges there,” Denham said.
Through this operation, just over 10 pounds of methamphetamines and six guns were seized, according to the ATF.
Hattiesburg Police Chief Anthony Parker says he’s grateful for the teamwork in his city.
“We’re doing everything in our power to make our city safer, and to continue in our efforts to improve the overall quality of life for each of you," he said.
Over the past year, under the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Project EJECT and led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew W. Eichner, the ATF, the Hattiesburg Police Department, the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Forrest County Sheriff’s Office, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and others have focused investigations on career criminal offenders, armed narcotics traffickers, and documented gang members in and around Hattiesburg and throughout Forrest County. These investigations involved controlled purchases of illegal narcotics, targeted follow ups and interviews driven by and based upon intelligence and evidence gathered, and coordination amongst prosecutors and officers to prioritize and marshal resources towards the worst criminal offenders throughout the Pine Belt.
“Under Project EJECT, we are taking drug dealers and violent criminals off our streets and making our communities safer. Today’s announcement of the indictment and arrest of 7 prominent drug dealers in the Pine Belt is a result of the important work that these brave men and women in law enforcement have been doing to clean up our streets, make our neighborhoods safe, and protect our citizens. I want to thank our agents, officers, deputies and prosecutors for their hard work in bringing these criminals to justice,” said Hurst.
“ATF remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners to remove violent drug dealers from our communities,” said ATF New Orleans Field Division Special Agent in Charge Kurt Thielhorn. “We are proud to be a member of Project EJECT and will continue to do our part to help reduce firearm violence.”
“U.S. Attorney, Mike Hurst, you and your staff have been a tremendous asset in our crime reduction plan. Through Project EJECT you have helped us remove some of the most violent offenders from the streets of Hattiesburg. I want to thank, U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst and staff, by combining our resources as a team, it provides us an avenue for continued success in our fight against crime,” said Hattiesburg Police Department Chief Anthony Parker.
“Today’s arrests are a culmination of hard work, collaboration, and cooperation between multiple agencies to make our communities safer. Crime and drugs have no jurisdictional boundaries and coordinated efforts and information sharing always produces superior results. I want to personally thank all of the agencies involved for a successful operation,” said Charlie Sims, Forrest County Sherriff.
“Working in partnership with local, state, and federal authorities to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Mississippi is a priority for MBN,” said Colonel Steven Maxwell, Director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. “Thus, the removal of drug traffickers and violent offenders from our businesses and residential communities is imperative.”
This collaborative effort has resulted in the indictment by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of 7 defendants on federal drug charges, one of whom has already pled guilty.
• In January 2020, Shane Ware trafficked over 200 grams of methamphetamine with 100% purity into Hattiesburg.
• On two separate occasions in January 2020, Bradford Mark sold almost half a kilogram of methamphetamine with purity levels ranging up to almost 90%.
• In February 2020, Alfred Richards sold over 100 grams of methamphetamine in Hattiesburg with 99% purity.
• On two separate occasions in February 2020, Demetric Evans sold a total of over 200 grams of methamphetamine with 100% purity.
• On two separate occasions in March 2020, Kevin Taylor trafficked almost half a kilogram of methamphetamine into Hattiesburg, which was 99% pure, extremely deadly.
• Earlier this year, Amos Blanks was indicted federal for having trafficked meth in Hattiesburg in 2017 and 2019. Mr. Blanks pled guilty to one count of methamphetamine trafficking on July 23, 2020 and will be sentenced before Senior U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett on November 18, 2020 at 9:30 am.
• Georgio R. Scott was indicted for being a felon in possession of ammunition.
These cases are a part of Project EJECT, an initiative by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi under the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) and Project Guardian. EJECT is a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to fighting and reducing violent crime through prosecution, prevention, re-entry and awareness. EJECT stands for “Empower Justice Expel Crime Together.”
PSN is bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities.