“Operation The Real McCoy” in nine Metro and NW counties yields 47 arrests for gang & drugs charges

The initial Cherokee County investigations led CMANS agents to DeKalb and Gwinnett counties and members of the Ghostface Gangsters.

Pickens County, GA (June 24, 2020) – As a result of a 9-month investigation known as “Operation The Real McCoy,” the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad (CMANS), and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) served 47 arrest warrants for multiple charges including gang and drug related offenses.


In September 2019, Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad (CMANS) agents began an investigation into a supply chain of methamphetamine into Cherokee County.  The initial investigations led CMANS agents to DeKalb and Gwinnett counties and members of the Ghostface Gangsters.


Based on the initial investigation, CMANS, the GBI Gang Task Force, and HSI conducted an intensive investigation into the drug trafficking and distribution organization involving Brannon McCoy, age 26, Michael  Hazelwood, age 45, and Tricia Setser, age 38, who are traffickers of methamphetamine operating within numerous counties in Georgia including Sumter, Effingham, Fulton, Clayton, DeKalb, Cobb, Cherokee, Gilmer, and Pickens.  The investigation revealed a network involving members of the Ghostface Gangsters, the Gangster Disciples, and the Sureños.

The following were charged with Violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in Pickens County as part of “Operation The Real McCoy”:

  1. Tanner Burnell, 31, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail

  2. Donnie Chastain, 47, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail

  3. Cindy McCoy-Wilson, 49, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail

  4. Christopher Morris, 34, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail

  5. Allyson Moyer, 41, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail

  6. Jesse Rodriguez, 22, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail

  7. David Skinner, 46, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail

  8. Amanda Vliek, 37, currently in custody at the Pickens County Jail

  9. Brandon Sanchez Laney, 32, also charged with Violation of Georgia Street Gang and Terrorism Act, currently in custody at the Cherokee County Jail

  10. Tyler Morris, 28, currently in custody at the Cherokee County Jail

  11. Carl Welchel, 49, currently in custody at the Cherokee County Jail

  12. Tricia Setser, 38, currently in custody at the Cherokee County Jail

  13. Casey Plumb, 31, currently in custody at the Cherokee County Jail

  14. Michael Hazelwood, 45, currently in custody at Cherokee County Jail

  15. Josh Phillips, 23, currently in custody at the Gwinnett County Jail

  16. Josh David Collins, 37, currently in custody of GDC

  17. William Jamie Fields, 27, currently in custody of GDC

  18. Brannon Chase McCoy, 26, currently in custody of GDC

  19. Terrell Jamar Owens, 38, currently in custody of GDC

  20. Bryan Thomas Pitt, 36, currently in custody of GDC

  21. Kevin Rodriguez, 24, currently in custody of GDC

  22. Joseph Seaborn III, 47, currently in custody of GDC

  23. Dewane Cook, 46, currently in custody in Monroe County, TN

  24. Orvelin Garcia Penaloza, 25, currently a fugitive from justice

  25. Evan Dannny Taylor Yancey, currently a fugitive from justice

  26. Dillon Thompson, 40, currently a fugitive from justice

  27. Savannah Newton, 22, currently a fugitive from justice

  28. Tracey Shirley, 47, currently a fugitive from justice

  29. Brittany Owen, 41, also charged with Violation of Georgia Street Gang and Terrorism Act, currently a fugitive from justice

  30. Dennis Debord, 39, currently a fugitive from justice

  31. Jessica Darby, 33, currently a fugitive from justice

  32. Derick Barker, 35, currently a fugitive from justice

  33. Justin Barker, 31, currently a fugitive from justice

  34. Mindy Skelton, 38, currently a fugitive from justice

These individuals conspired with one or more persons to participate, directly and indirectly, in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity, and did commit at least one overt act and conspired to commit a felony with Brannon McCoy.  Mr. McCoy acted as a broker from within the State Prison Camp in Sumter County, Georgia, for the distribution of methamphetamine from members of Drug Trafficking Organizations in Mexico to the streets of North Georgia, Tennessee, and West Virginia.


The following individuals were arrested on June 24, 2020:

  1. Erik Noe Fuentes Escobar, 26, charged in Barrow County, GA with conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

  2. Kevin Vega-Santana, 18, charged with trafficking methamphetamine in Fulton County, GA.

  3. Artemio Maldonado Santana, 28, charged with trafficking methamphetamine in Fulton County, GA.

  4. Elvis Maldonado-Santana, 21, charged with trafficking methamphetamine in Fulton County, GA.

  5. Buford Smith, 68, charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in Pickens County, GA.

  6. Leah Thompson, 31, charged with possession of methamphetamine in Pickens County, GA.

  7. Joseph Arp, 50, charged with possession of methamphetamine in Pickens County, GA.

  8. Wendy Kirby, 44, charged with obstruction in Pickens County, GA.

  9. Tracy Kirby, 42, charged with obstruction in Pickens County, GA.

  10. William Ryder, 45 charged with obstruction in Pickens County, GA.

  11. Ashley Foster, 31, charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of a Schedule IV substance in Pickens County, GA.

  12. Christopher Mountain 47, charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of a Schedule IV substance in Pickens County, GA.

  13. Marjorie Brown, 61, charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in Pickens County, GA.

Agents seized over 136 kilograms of methamphetamine valued at $1.76 million and approximately $100,000.


Agencies involved in the investigation were the CMANS, the GBI Gang Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations, the Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, Pickens Sheriff’s Office, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, the Cherokee County District Attorney's Office, Georgia Department of Corrections, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Barrow Sheriff’s Office, the Gordon County Drug Task Force, Gwinnett Gang Task Force and Special Investigation Section, DeKalb District Attorney’s Office, the Cobb PD and District Attorney’s Office, the Clayton SO and District Attorney’s Office, the Apex Unit from Atlanta PD, the West Metro Regional Drug Enforcement Office, the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office, the Georgia National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office.


The GBI Gang Task Force is made up of GBI Agents, task force agents from the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, the Atlanta Police Department, the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, the Georgia National Guard Counter Drug Task Force and the United States Department of Homeland Security/Homeland Security Investigations.


The Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad is a joint task force working in Cherokee County and Pickens County to investigate drug related violations. Participating agencies include the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office, the Pickens Sheriff’s Office, the Canton Police Department, the Woodstock Police Department, the Holly Springs Police Department, the Ball Ground Police Department, the Cherokee County Marshal’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office for the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit, the District Attorney’s Office for the Appalachian Judicial Circuit and the Georgia State Patrol. Citizens may call in tips anonymously to (770) 345-7920 or may speak to an agent by calling (678) 493-7625.

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