17 individuals were arrested and 19 have been charged after local, state, and federal authorities raided a Fry’s Spring residence on the morning of September 6th for a drug ring operating in the surrounding Charlottesville area.
A federal grand jury indicted the 17 individuals on conspiracies to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine. Additional charges include various counts for distribution.
The indictment reveals that the drug conspiracy and operation allegedly began in February 2023.
As a result, authorities launched “Operation Rock Bottom” in March. Twelve different agencies assisted in the investigation, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Virginia State Police, the Albemarle County Police Department, and the Charlottesville Police Department. Throughout the investigation, investigators purchased more than 30 pounds of narcotics from the drug ring.
“Those search warrants resulted in the seizure of 20 firearms, which included sawed-off shotguns and assault rifles, 1.7 kilograms of powdered fentanyl, 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, a pound of meth, 5,000 press fentanyl pills, and over $70,000 in bulk cash,” United States Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh disclosed at a press conference in Charlottesville on Thursday, September 7th.
Kavanaugh also revealed that the 1.7 kilograms of fentanyl equate to nearly 850,000 lethal doses, enough to kill the entire population of Charlottesville and Albemarle County combined five times over.
According to the Commonwealth of Virginia, drug overdoses are the leading cause of unnatural death in Virginia. In 2021, fentanyl was responsible for 76.4% of drug overdose deaths in the state. From 2020 to 2021, the percentage rose by 22.8%.
Data from Virginia Rules, an educational program from the Office of the Attorney General, estimates that 98% of fatal fentanyl overdoses in Virginia were caused by the illicit, rather than prescription, version of the drug.
“Our citizens, particularly the younger generation, are being exposed to an illegal drug supply that is more hazardous than ever before, which underscores the need for parents, caregivers, students, and educators to comprehend the risks of substance use and take appropriate steps to stay protected. It is essential that everyone understand that just one pill can be fatal. One Pill can Kill,” Special Agent in Charge Jared Forget of the DEA’s Washington Division urged on Thursday.
In an executive order signed in May, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin directed executive branch agencies to enact a comprehensive fentanyl strategy as part of his Right Help, Right Now behavioral health plan for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The strategy places an emphasis on educating communities on the dangers of fentanyl and opioid abuse, investing in prevention and recovery efforts, expanding access to evidence-based treatments, and enhancing public safety measures to counteract illicit activity, in addition to various other directives.
According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, drug trafficking organizations typically distribute fentanyl by the kilogram, and one kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people.
Operation Rock Bottom was part of a large-scale national effort with Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) through the Department of Justice to crack down on violent crime. Launched in 2001 by the Department, PSN is a nationwide initiative that works to identify issues of violent crime and implement reduction strategies. The program operates through U.S. Attorney’s offices in all fifty states and territories, allowing for strategies and solutions to be customized to the locality and its specific resources.
“The federal case is a key example of what happens when we pull our federal and state and local resources, [and] investigative resources together for a common cause,” said Virginia State Police Superintendent Gary Settle at the press conference.
In addition to the 17 individuals arrested, two individuals were also charged based on evidence seized during the execution of the search warrants on Wednesday that alleges their involvement. 15 names were provided in the indictment:
- DuShaun Lamont Gregory, 36
- Tyquane Pertell Gregory, 27
- Fields Devon Landon, 29, of Charlottesville, Virginia
- Bobby Eugene Christmas, 36, of Charlottesville, Virginia
- Michael Edward Cornett, 29, of Charlottesville, Virginia
- Antone Laron Harris, 41
- Brooks Lorenzo Woodfolk, 41
- Ashlee Renee Morris, 37
- Shaheim Taishaun Michie, 18, of Arlington, Virginia
- John Ellis Turner III, 42
- Gary Wayne Woodson, 66, of Crozet, Virginia
- Caleb Andrew Herndon, 26
- Dashard Brown, 29
- Cedric Trent, 25
- Dustin Lee Welch