COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) — The South Carolina attorney general says 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 upstate investigation called “Los Banditos” alleges much of the drug trafficking was directed and facilitated by the owners of the Los Primos restaurant located in Greenville, near of a primary school.
“The restaurant not only served food, but served as a regional hub in which cocaine and methamphetamine were allegedly trafficked throughout South Carolina and other states in our area,” said Wilson. “Restaurant owners also reportedly operate taco trucks that they use to sell their drugs in this area.”
Wilson said the restaurant would eventually serve as a regional hub through which cocaine and methamphetamine were funneled to other states.
The investigation revealed suspected ties to Mexican drug trafficking cartels operating in South Carolina and Georgia.
“Las Banditos” involving multiple agencies, local, state and federal, led to the indictments, as well as the seizure of approximately $825,000 in methamphetamines, $70,000 in cocaine, approximately $63,000 in cash and more than 20 guns.
“So it’s been a very robust operation that’s spread through the state of Georgia,” Wilson said. “A lot of these drugs are supposedly meant to be tracked here in South Carolina.”
Wilson stressed that those charged are presumed innocent until convicted in court.
“That being said, typically the drugs cross the southern US border and are then transported to Atlanta, Georgia, which is the primary drug hub for the southeastern region of the United States,” said Wilson. “From there they often come to South Carolina.”
The investigation led to additional seizures in Atlanta of about $15 million worth of methamphetamine, more than $400,000 worth of cocaine and more than $300,000 worth of heroin, he said.
Some of the cocaine seized, he said, was mixed with fentanyl.
“Now we all know what’s going on in this country and it’s bad enough when people are dealing cocaine,” Wilson said. “And fentanyl is a deadly poison. And for those who use drugs recreationally, don’t always assume that what you get won’t be mixed with something that can kill you.
Investigators determined that over time, the two-state drug ring trafficked more than $75 million worth of methamphetamine, $12 million worth of cocaine and more than $200,000 worth of heroin, said Wilson.
A significant portion of those seized drugs would have been destined for South Carolina, he said.
“This was a very large-scale, organized drug operation that trafficked pounds of drugs every week into Greenville County,” said 13th Circuit attorney Walt Wilkins.
State Grand Jury Division Chief Prosecutor Creighton Waters, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel, and representatives from the Department of Homeland Security and agents from Greenville and Pickens counties, all of whom participated in the investigation, also attended the news. conference.
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