Community help investigators catch drug dealers | Crime
LANIER COUNTY, GA - News release from Lanier County Sheriff's Office
The Lanier County Sheriff’s Office and South Georgia Drug Task Force got a welcome break in a case which has been under joint investigation for the past few weeks. Investigators from the two agencies had been conducting intelligence gathering operations on an Apple Drive residence in Oakridge Subdivision after receiving multiple complaints of drug sales from the house.
The investigators had identified one of the occupants at 17 Apple Drive, Lakeland as having an outstanding probation warrant, another as being previously banned from the Alapaha Judicial Circuit and a third as having been arrested for drug offenses recently.
The investigators also identified the persons who signed the lease and were allowing the others to live there and facilitate the drug sales activity and “party” at the house and at that point the agents began to conduct surveillance.
The break came when investigators learned from one of their confidential sources told them they thought the dealers were soon to be evicted. Agents confirmed that the company who owned the house had previously served an eviction notice and were planning on carrying out the eviction on Friday, December 9th.
The persons carrying out the eviction and tasked with removing the tenants personal effects had asked deputies to stand by for their safety due to the reputation of the tenants. Once inside the house the workers notified the deputies that what appeared to be illegal drug paraphernalia and drugs were in the house.
Deputies entered and found the items described and observed additional items which deputies identified as substantial quantities of what appeared to be crack cocaine and marijuana. The Deputies and Sheriff Norton who was on scene contacted his investigators already working on the case and they in turn notified the South Georgia Drug Task Force agents working with them.
The drugs were placed into evidence by the Sheriff’s Office along with drug related objects, a loaded .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol and documents identifying the occupants. The drugs and drug related objects were transferred to the custody of the Drug Task Force for further testing and weighing.
No one was home, or would return home, while the deputies and agents were on the scene but later on Friday evening three of the occupants of the house and a fourth person attempted to retrieve their personal effects from one of the persons handling the eviction by threatening them.
Deputies were called to that scene as well but two of the men, thought to be the ones with warrant and banishments issues, fled the scene before deputies arrived along with a female who investigators are working on identifying. An investigation into the threats is being conducted as well.
The investigators have pressed forward with the drug investigation and begun interviewing the occupants. They say that the house was being used to sell drugs from and to “party” at and the two females leasing the house told agents that the situation started out seemingly innocently with one of the former convicted felons emotionally asking for help to move out of a higher drug crime area and get a safer place in the county.
However, once relocated he began to revert to selling drugs and inviting other criminals to live and sell from the house in the new neighborhood. Because of the poor credit of the people involved, one of the persons on the lease used a “cutout” ( a third party with no criminal history and a good credit history) to provide the utilities turn on and co-sign the lease. Both of the individuals who signed the lease helped decorate and furnished the house and started attending parties there.
At some point, suspects who were interviewed said it had “got out of control” and that the main focus of the house turned to drug sales with many new people, many known to be drug users and dealers to the tenants, coming in to the house and domestic issues and conflicts becoming commonplace.
Investigators believe the primary dealer used his relationship with one of the women to encourage her to set him up in an area where he felt his dealings would not be noticed by law enforcement and although she admitted that he “never stopped” his activity, she facilitated him operating from a new location.
The difference in this case, say investigators, was the public becoming involved and providing a steady stream of intelligence which agents needed to further develop their case. The first complaint received was in mid-October shortly after the suspects moved into the house and since then both the Sheriff’s Office Investigators and the Drug Task Force have received more than a dozen calls, tips and help from area residents.
The drug agents say this is an excellent example of the fact that it takes time, and teamwork, to work up a solid case on a “drug house” and that even though common sense tells all the neighbors what is going on, the agents can’t just kick in the door and arrest everyone without a proper investigation. The agents say that making a drug case is easy, but making a proper drug case that will result in proper arrests that don’t violate suspect’s rights and jeopardize the case takes time, manpower and, on occasion, a lucky break.
Sheriff Norton said: “This is a prime example of how sneaky and persistent the illegal drug business is. We have made tremendous strides in moving some of the largest drug dealers in this area off the street and into prison, but that doesn’t mean it’s over. Now we see the former ‘worker- bee’s’ and the ‘want-to-bees’ of the glory days of drug sales in the area branching out and attempting to start up a new business or increase their market share.
The citizens of Lanier County have proven that they can help us identify and take out drug dealers, just like they did in this case, but it requires paying attention to what’s going on in your neighborhood and letting us know when something seems out of balance so we can start working on it to determine if there is a problem. It takes time, but together we can make a difference as we’ve proven over the last several years.
No matter what, we will keep up the fight. This county belongs to the folks that work hard, deal honestly, contribute to our community and pay their taxes. Everybody else needs a new zip code.”
All total, 81.4 grams of marijuana and 6.1 grams of crack cocaine were recovered from the residence and field tested positive as illegal substances. Also seized were drug related objects to assist with packaging and sales along with a quantity of Xanax.
Xanax is the most prescribed and most misused benzodiazepine which is typically used legally for panic and anxiety but commonly sold illegally on the street as a mood altering drug for its psychoactive traits.
After consultation with District Attorney Cathy Helms’ office, 15 arrest warrants were issued in the case and other warrants may be forthcoming. Among the charges listed on the warrants are: Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute, Possession of a Controlled Substance (Cocaine), Possession Of A Controlled Substance (Xanax), Possession Of Tools For Commission Of A Crime, Possession Of Marijuana, Possession Of A Firearm By A Convicted Felon.
On Sunday morning, December 18th at approx. 4:37 a.m. the South Georgia Drug Task Force agent assigned to the case received a call from Valdosta Georgia State Patrol dispatch advising that they had stopped two of the suspects in the case and had run the pair’s name through the state computer system and discovered that warrants had been issued for them in Lanier County.
GSP made arrests for DUI and Possession of a Controlled Substance (Cocaine) based on the GSP stop and place a hold on the pair for the Lanier County case.
In the Lanier County case William Earl Holloman and Trevor Hernandez Bell, are incarcerated and pending arraignment before a judge. Holloman is charged with Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute and Possession of Tools for Commission of a Crime.
Bell has been charged with Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute, Possession of a Controlled Substance (Cocaine), Possession Of A Controlled Substance (Xanax), Possession Of Tools For Commission Of A Crime, Possession Of Marijuana and Possession Of A Firearm By A Convicted Felon. Holloman is currently on Parole and Bell is on Probation.
Warrants for the arrest of three other individuals will be served but their names are not being released at this time for investigative reasons.