Picture credit - WRDW

Seventeen defendants in Operation Vanilla Gorilla face prison sentences

Seventeen additional defendants indicted on drug trafficking and firearms charges as part of Operation Vanilla Gorilla have pled guilty in federal court, bringing to 33 the total number of guilty pleas only months after charges were filed.

Operation Vanilla Gorilla, an investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), targeted the notorious Ghost Face Gangsters, a violent criminal street gang largely operated from inside Georgia’s prison system. The multi-agency federal, state and local operation netted 46 indictments on federal charges, primarily for drug trafficking and illegal firearms possession, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

Indictments were handed down in November and December 2018 in U.S. District Court in Savannah. Sixteen of the defendants pled guilty in February, and 17 more have since entered guilty pleas in U.S. District Court. They include:

  • Christopher Hendrix, a/k/a “Hot Boy” and “Irish,” 40, of Helena, Ga., pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute 5 grams or more of Methamphetamine and Heroin, and faces five to 40 years in prison. In court, Hendrix admitted that he was the “capo” for the Ghost Face Gangsters who was brought to this district to get gang members “on track.”  He has tattoos of horns on his head, the “G” tattooed on his neck and “Vanilla Gorilla” tattooed on his chest;
  • Cody Penfield, 28, of Savannah, Ga., pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine. He faces 10 years to life in prison;
  • Nick Penfield, a/k/a “Picnic,” 22, of Pooler, Ga., pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute 5 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, and faces five to 40 years in prison;
  • Waylon Jesse Hodges, 41, of Pembroke, Ga., pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, and faces up to 20 years in prison;
  • Trevor Aines, a/k/a “Sticks,” 29, of Garden City, Ga., pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess Five Grams or More of Methamphetamine and Felon in Possession of a Firearm, and faces up to life in prison;
  • Marcos Logan-Greco, 28, of Richmond Hill, Ga., pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine and Heroin, and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, and faces up to life in prison;
  • Jennifer J. Grooms, 36, of Ellabell, Ga., pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, and faces up to 20 years in prison;
  • Kimberlin Johnson, 24, of Rincon, Ga., pled guilty to Distribution of Alprazolam (Xanax) and Distribution of Hydrocodone and faces up to 20 years in prison;
  • Dillon Myrick, a/k/a “Country Crack,” 31, of Savannah, Ga pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, and faces up to 20 years in prison;
  • Robert Fuller, a/k/a “Robbie,” 39, of Richmond Hill, Ga., pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, and faces up to 20 years in prison;
  • Baby Dwayne Garrison, 55, of Bloomingdale, Ga., pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, and faces up to 20 years in prison;
  • Joseph Britt Carter, a/k/a “Crack,” 29, of Savannah, Ga., pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, and Possession of a Firearm by a Drug User, and faces up life in prison;
  • Cody Tracy, a/k/a “Cojack,” 33, of Guyton, Ga., pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, and faces up to 20 years in prison;
  • Andrew P. Campos, a/k/a “Chubs,” 28, of Richmond Hill, Ga., pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, and faces up to life in prison; and,
  • Rodney Rose, 39, of Bloomingdale, Ga., pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, and faces up to 20 years in prison.

The guilty pleas of two additional defendants have been sealed by the court.

The indictments allege that the narcotics-trafficking conspiracy began as early as 2015, operating in Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, and Tattnall Counties, in the Southern District of Georgia, and elsewhere. Members of the conspiracy associated with the Ghost Face Gangsters and with other criminal street gangs to aid in the distribution of controlled substances, for protection, and to promote a climate of fear.

Operation Vanilla Gorilla represents one of the largest-ever takedowns of Ghost Face Gangsters associates.

“The swift resolution of these cases with guilty pleas demonstrates the effectiveness of the investigation and the prosecution team,” said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. “The investigators and our OCDETF prosecutors have done an outstanding job, and their work in dismantling violent criminal street gangs will continue to make our communities safer.”

Robert J. Murphy, Special Agent in Charge, Atlanta Field division stated, “DEA is committed to making our communities safer and these results demonstrate the agency’s resolve in confronting violent criminals locally, nationally and internationally.”

“This case is a great example of how you leverage law enforcement resources to target the offenders driving crime in the region,” said Beau Kolodka, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Operation Vanilla Gorilla was investigated under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), the centerpiece of the United States Attorney General’s drug strategy to reduce the availability of drugs by disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and related criminal enterprises. The case was investigated by the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the Chatham County Narcotics Team (CNT), the Georgia Department of Corrections Intelligence Division, the Savannah Police Department, the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, the Bryan County Sheriff’s Office, the Richmond Hill Police Department, the Pooler Police Department, the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office and the Bloomingdale Police Department, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys E. Greg Gilluly Jr. and Frank Pennington.

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