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Augusta police reveal details of huge burglary probe

ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
Guns on display at press conference.
Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012 1:54 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012 8:12 PM
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After a seven-month undercover burglary operation dubbed “Operation Smoke Screen,” which yielded 77 arrests by Tuesday, Sheriff Ronnie Strength said he thinks Augusta’s burglary numbers will take a significant dip.

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Sheriff Ronnie Strength stands with officers who worked on Operation Smoke Screen as he announces the results of the undercover operation Tuesday afternoon in Augusta.   ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
Sheriff Ronnie Strength stands with officers who worked on Operation Smoke Screen as he announces the results of the undercover operation Tuesday afternoon in Augusta.


“We hope by taking (the criminals) off the streets we will see a decrease in burglaries,” he said. “Each of these folks burglarized one to three places a day. So we are talking hundreds of burglaries stopped.”

Around 4 a.m. Tuesday, more than 120 officers from the sheriff’s office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshals Service executed 24 federal arrest warrants and 85 state arrest warrants. The charges ranged from federal firearm and drug charges to burglary and theft. As of Tuesday afternoon, 109 indictments have been issued by the US Attorney’s office. The sheriff’s office has identified suspects in 104 burglaries, 12 car break-ins and 16 general thefts through Smoke Screen, Strength said.

Through the operation, Strength said investigators learned most of the criminals were working independently and there was not any large-scale organization or gang involvement. Along with the 64 guns, the operation recovered 10 cars, countless televisions and electronic equipment, yard tools including riding lawn mowers, ATVs and many other items.

Smoke Screen started in August when investigators identified a pawn shop operating illegally. They approached the owner of Cheap Cigarettes II on Peach Orchard Road, and convinced him to flip. After he agreed, the sheriff’s office placed high definition cameras on the property and inserted an undercover agent in the store.

Before long, they noticed a high number of guns being brought in and contacted the ATF. Special Agent in Charge Scott Sweetow said they joined the operation at the end of August, and noticed shortly after how quickly stolen guns were moving through Richmond County.

“A gun would be stolen from a car and 30 minutes later we would be buying it at the store,” Sweetow said. “Once you open those doors, criminals will find you.”

He said some of the stolen items have been identified by serial numbers from specific burglaries and will be returned to the owners within the next few weeks. Other victims might have a chance to identify their items after the operation is complete.

Strength said there are 47 more suspects they are still working to identify so Smoke Screen would continue for the next few months until they tie up the loose ends.

Capt. Scott Peebles said they had to arrest about 25 people during the course of the undercover operation because they posed an immediate risk to Augusta residents.

“We didn’t want to wait until the end,” he said. “We have to be careful not to feed the criminals.”

Sweetow said the ATF has undercover store front operations all over Georgia, but this one yielded more arrests then he had seen, including one in Atlanta that resulted in 50 apprehensions.

“I was surprised in the amount of guns we received in such a short amount of time,” he said. “A lot of these guns will be traced back to crimes.”

Sweetow said they trace every gun back as far as they can. The firearms reported stolen by legitimate owners will be returned; the rest will be destroyed. He expects more illegal guns to be found by the end of Operation Smoke Screen.

“This operation is far from over,” Strength said. “Many more arrests are forthcoming.”

OTHER RECENT UNDERCOVER STINGS

OPERATION AUGUSTA INK

In 2006, Richmond County Sheriff’s set up a Tobacco Road business called Colur Tyme Tattoo Parlor. Investigators, posing as tattoo artists and store owners, purchased firearms from area gang members to build contacts. After 16 months, in November 2007, about 400 firearms were seized and more than 130 people arrested. Richmond County received The International Association of Chiefs of Police Choice Point Award for Excellence in Criminal Investigations.

OPERATION FOX HUNT

In August 2009, an undercover deputy got a job at Cyrus’s Corner, an urban clothing store in a strip mall on the corner of Deans Bridge and Lumpkin roads. After eight months, the sheriff’s office teamed up with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and U.S. Marshal Service. The deputies moved their operation to an apartment complex on Wrightsboro Road for safety reasons and continued to buy firearms and drugs from suspects, including gang members, Strength said. On March 15, 2011, a 19-month undercover investigation dubbed Operation Fox Hunt unfolded. By mid-afternoon, 61 of their 75 targets were in custody, 192 guns were confiscated, and the U.S. attorney’s office said about $75,000 worth of marijuana, cocaine and Ecstasy pills were seized.

Suspects named

The following list of suspect names was provided by the Sheriff's Offic.

DERRIAN BROWN
DETREVIOUS PACE
DEKABIEN SWINT
RODRIGUEZ BYNYON
DERRICK WILLIAMS
AKEEM WIGGINS
CRAIG HAMBRICK
JERRY MOZONE
NICO WARTHAW
CARL COLLINS
SHAMIKA GILBERT
DION LAWERENCE
MARCUS SCOTT
DWYANE ANDERSON
BRANDON JACKSON
LEROY BUNYAN
RAHEEM MOSS
MARVIN MAJOR
MICHAEL POLING
MIGUEL HEREDIA
ROBERT JOHNSON
CHARLES ANDREWS
HUBERT LIPSCOMB
DENNIS JORDAN
CARNESHA WILSON
ASYA NEELY
QUAME COLLINS
DARIUS WHALEY
DARREL PATTERSON
GRADY WEST
RASHAD RAY
STEVE MIKEL
KEYUANA ADAMS
DONLEE WILLIAMS
GARY HENDERSON
THOMAS HEATLEY
DARIUSS REDD
BRYANT MILLER
TAVARES HARMON
DEANDRE FOREMAN
CHASTITY LOVING
ANTONIO JONES
EPHRAIM JACKSON
TERRENCE MERRIWEATHER
ANGUS MYRICKS
ERIC WILEY
DARNELL BROWN
HUBERT GARRETT
JAMES WILSON
MERCEDES HYMAN
CHIVILIOUS MOORE
JAMAR THOMAS
SASHA TAYLOR
WILLIAM HARMON
DEANDRE JACKSON
GREGORY DOUSE
SHARON MYRICKS
RENARLDO BUTLER
SHIRLEY HAYNES
LARRY WILLIAMS
LEMUEL SMITH
BRANDON DUNN
ANGELO PRINGLE
CURTIS PRESIDENT
JOSHUA GAITHER


6 JUVENILES

Comments (22) Add comment
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raul
5318
Points
raul 02/28/12 - 03:12 pm
14
2
Way to go RCSO!!Think what

Way to go RCSO!!Think what they could do if they were staffed to the max. Money that would be well spent instead of white elephant projects like the TEE Center frittering away taxpayers money.

rmwardsr
525
Points
rmwardsr 02/28/12 - 03:25 pm
1
0
I wonder if they found a 1995

I wonder if they found a 1995 Ford Taurus that was stolen two years ago.

wondersnevercease
9218
Points
wondersnevercease 02/28/12 - 03:35 pm
0
0
You are correct
Unpublished

You are correct raul..........the key to making Augusta a success is to stop the criminal element that run the streets.......

clean up the crime and then "THEY" will come.

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 02/28/12 - 03:51 pm
3
0
Right on raul!

Right on raul!

suga2012
0
Points
suga2012 02/28/12 - 03:56 pm
5
0
wow!! way to go RCSO!!!!!!

wow!! way to go RCSO!!!!!!

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 02/28/12 - 04:09 pm
7
0
Sure hope they got my tv's.

Sure hope they got my tv's.

seenitB4
90674
Points
seenitB4 02/28/12 - 04:32 pm
6
0
Way To Go Richmond

Way To Go Richmond county......Yip=yip hooray....now can you do this every week.....

kiwiinamerica
950
Points
kiwiinamerica 02/28/12 - 04:54 pm
0
0
Last paragraph says it
Unpublished

Last paragraph says it all.

Pawn shop = fence for stolen property.

david jennings
624
Points
david jennings 02/28/12 - 05:11 pm
7
0
Yes, wonderful news. These

Yes, wonderful news. These folks work hard and deserve everything they get and more from the community. I'm with raul 100%.

Sweet son
10729
Points
Sweet son 02/28/12 - 05:20 pm
4
0
Get 'em ATF RJB, JBM!!

Get 'em ATF RJB, JBM!!

dhpsmp
20
Points
dhpsmp 02/28/12 - 05:24 pm
0
0
And of course they had
Unpublished

And of course they had permits for all those weapons.

seenitB4
90674
Points
seenitB4 02/28/12 - 05:31 pm
4
4
Now please don't get on tv &

Now please don't get on tv & give the details on how yall carried this out....yaknow whatta mean.....don't think we need to tell them everything.

AutumnLeaves
8446
Points
AutumnLeaves 02/28/12 - 05:56 pm
6
0
seenitB4, I agree: RCSO and

seenitB4, I agree: RCSO and media, puhhleeze don't tell the public a thing about how you did it! All we want to know is who has been arrested, where they came from, when they go to trial for their alleged crimes, who is actually convicted and how long their sentences are. I hope this leads to more arrests and convictions if proven guilty in the court of law. Also, hopefully some evidence/property will eventually be returned to the rightful owners.

csraguy
2333
Points
csraguy 02/28/12 - 11:05 pm
4
0
What a great job by the

What a great job by the Richmond County Sheriff's Office and all of the supporting agencies. Kudos to the undercover deputy who had to give up a great deal for a long time in order to help our community.

sand gnat
568
Points
sand gnat 02/29/12 - 01:22 am
2
0
Great job by RCSD! Now the

Great job by RCSD! Now the judiciary needs to do their job.
I wonder if any of those apprenhended in operation smoke screen were repeats from opertion augusta ink or operation fox hunt?

panamajoe98
0
Points
panamajoe98 02/29/12 - 02:10 am
1
5
If there was not an operation

If there was not an operation buying this stuff for 7 months, would all of the stuff been stolen? How many more crimes were committed by criminals knowing they could fence ther loot? Were there any citizens assaulted by criminals during this time? I applaud the effort, I am glad thugs are off the street, but am wary of the consequences of a 7 month operation.

lifelongresident
1323
Points
lifelongresident 02/29/12 - 08:47 am
0
0
it's masters time again,
Unpublished

it's masters time again, apply pressure to force all roaches and insects back in their holes.....ater the masters is will go back to business as usual

blues550
380
Points
blues550 02/29/12 - 08:59 am
0
0
We are blessed in this area
Unpublished

We are blessed in this area with possibly the best sheriffs on the planet with Ronnie, Clay and Mike...and the departments they lead.

Here's an idea, once all those who can identify their stuff get it back, let's have a huge charity gala and auction off the rest through silent and live auctions. Proceeds going to the RCSD for purchasing needed safety equipment for their guys and gals!

csraguy
2333
Points
csraguy 02/29/12 - 09:01 am
3
0
panama, Captain Scott Peebles

panama, Captain Scott Peebles who headed up the operation for the RCSO stated last night that they did in fact arrest almost 30 individuals during the operation in addition to all of those arrested yesterday. Those previously arrested were considered repeat offenders or violent persons. Criminals will always find ways to get money for their stolen items, that is what they do and you will see that hardly any (if any) of these arrested were new to this game. This was a great job by the RCSO and other agencies - especilly the undercover officer.

obkad
222
Points
obkad 02/29/12 - 09:22 am
3
0
what is sad is that these

what is sad is that these thugs will be back on the street after one day in jail as there is no room to keep them...guess what, they start all over again!!!!

JRC2024
9284
Points
JRC2024 02/29/12 - 09:54 am
3
0
Build a big cage with a

Build a big cage with a double fence and a water proof roof and put them all in it. Dress them in pink and then ask the news media to put them on the news. Good job by RSCO. I would buy dinner at Calverts for the under cover officer if I knew who he was or anywhere he wanted to go. Thanks to all at the sheriffs department.

Equaltreatmentforall
49
Points
Equaltreatmentforall 02/29/12 - 10:25 am
2
0
Years ago, we owned a gun

Years ago, we owned a gun store in Augusta. We were burlgiarized and a number of guns were stolen. A year or so later, we received a call from the police dept. in Atlanta. They had recovered a couple of our guns there and were sending them to the police dept. in Augusta and they would be returned to us. I don't know what happened to them. They said they were sent but could not be found. Perhaps they were destroyed by accident. Kind of felt like we were burglarized twice.

scratchthesurface
26
Points
scratchthesurface 02/29/12 - 11:14 am
2
0
Way to go Ronnie Strength and
Unpublished

Way to go Ronnie Strength and the Almight RCSO. Now, let's investigate the River Glenn Apartments. Go undercover and get rid of the murderers, low life's, moochers and hooligans that misuse our tax dollars

TNTHOMSON
2
Points
TNTHOMSON 02/29/12 - 02:06 pm
0
0
314 or so folks arrested in

314 or so folks arrested in three undercover operations which took hundreds of guns off the streets and put numerous criminals in
prison (where they can brag about another line on their criminal record and network with peers to improve techniques).

filemite
1
Points
filemite 02/29/12 - 03:28 pm
1
0
i want my fiancees engagement

i want my fiancees engagement ring back!!

dichotomy
34354
Points
dichotomy 02/29/12 - 04:42 pm
3
0
I'll bet the catch and

I'll bet the catch and release judges and the probation contractor are licking their lips at the potential kickbacks and profits. The prosecutors will be lining up to pass out plea deals to clear the cases. The crooks will soon be back on the streets looking to steal even more to pay their fines and the probation contractor.

Good job RCSO, ATF, and US Marshalls. Too bad you don't get any support from the prosecutors and judges.

scratchthesurface
26
Points
scratchthesurface 03/01/12 - 11:15 am
0
0
Put them in jail for 20-30
Unpublished

Put them in jail for 20-30 years. That's plenty of time for them to lift weights and convert to islam

Magpie
77
Points
Magpie 03/01/12 - 11:52 am
0
0
Keep up the good work RCSO!!!

Keep up the good work RCSO!!!

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