Columbia, South Carolina — United States Attorney Peter M. McCoy, Jr. announced today that a joint team of more than 200 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers arrested fourteen people who have all been charged in federal court for their roles in an alleged violent drug trafficking ring in the Midlands area of South Carolina.
According to court records, beginning in July 2018, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), through its Columbia Violent Gang Task Force, began investigating an uptick in gang-related violence spanning Lexington, Richland, and Kershaw counties in South Carolina. The Columbia Violent Gang Task Force is an FBI-led joint task force consisting of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), Richland County Sheriff’s Department, and the Columbia Police Department. The task force also partnered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and utilized the assistance of a number of local law enforcement agencies, including the Lexington County Sherriff’s Department and the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office.
Through this coordinated effort, the law enforcement agencies obtained information that a series of shootings, armed robberies, carjackings, and drug trafficking operations were being committed by gang members around Columbia and throughout the Midlands. Much of the violence occurring in these areas was a direct result of competing drug trafficking organizations disputing over distribution territory.
After a multi-year investigation consisting of controlled purchases, telephones calls, and confidential sources, the law enforcement agencies were able to execute the early morning arrests today without incident.
“The criminal complaint in this case speaks for itself,” said U.S. Attorney McCoy. “However, in these trying times, it is critical that the people of South Carolina know that this office and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners are here to help keep them safe and prosecute those who put that safety at risk.”
“Today’s arrests demonstrate that even in the midst of a pandemic, the FBI and its task forces will continue to find and arrest drug traffickers who work against the people of South Carolina,” said Jody Norris, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI. “I thank our federal, state, and local partners for their steadfast dedication to the communities we all protect.”
The fourteen arrested defendants have been charged in a federal criminal complaint with a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, crack cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and oxycodone.
NELSON DURAN ESCOBAR, a/k/a “Macho,” 37, was attributed five kilograms or more of cocaine in the conspiracy;
MAURICE ANTWAIN LEACH, a/k/a “Blue,” 33, was attributed five kilograms or more of cocaine, 280 grams or more of crack cocaine, and a quantity of oxycodone in the conspiracy;
ANTHONY CHARLES BRITT, a/k/a “Mallet” a/k/a “Amp” a/k/a “King Coke,” 31, was attributed five kilograms or more of cocaine in the conspiracy;
JAMES MORRIS, a/k/a “Dollar,” 34, was attributed 500 grams or more of cocaine and a quantity of oxycodone in the conspiracy;
CHRISTOPHER DAQUAN MELTON, a/k/a “Gunner,” 27, was attributed five kilograms or more of cocaine and a quantity of oxycodone in the conspiracy;
DEVONTE JABAR SIMON, a/k/a “Ammo,” 27, was attributed five kilograms or more of cocaine in the conspiracy;
DAVID LANARD BALLARD, a/k/a “Dave,” 37, was attributed 280 grams or more of crack cocaine in the conspiracy;
ASHLEY BRYON FISHER, a/k/a “Ponchie,” 38, was attributed 280 grams or more of crack cocaine in the conspiracy;
TOMMY NOVACK LLOYD, a/k/a “T-Lloyd,” 42, was attributed 500 grams or more of cocaine in the conspiracy;
ERIC TRAVAS COWAN, 60, was attributed 500 grams or more of cocaine in the conspiracy;
REGINALD KEITH FURGESS, a/k/a “Reggie” a/k/a “Fat Boy,” 61, was attributed 28 grams or more of crack cocaine and a quantity of cocaine in the conspiracy;
TRINETTE L. MELTON, a/k/a “Ma” a/k/a “Auntie,” 45, was attributed a quantity of cocaine in the conspiracy;
JAMEEL DARU ANDERSON, a/k/a “Who-Bang,” 32, was attributed a quantity of heroin, a quantity of cocaine, a quantity of fentanyl, and a quantity of oxycodone in the conspiracy; and
JANIE ROBINSON, a/k/a “J,” 36, was attributed a quantity of oxycodone in the conspiracy.
During the course of the investigation into this drug trafficking ring, agents have seized illegal narcotics, currency, and firearms.
The case was investigated by the FBI, DEA, SLED, Richland County Sheriff’s Department, Columbia Police Department, Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, and Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office.
This case is being prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime. Assistant United States Attorneys Sloan P. Ellis and Brandi B. Hinton are prosecuting the case.
The United States Attorney stated that all charges against these defendants are merely accusations and that all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.