The US Department of Justice said 40 people were recently charged in the largest federal racketeering conspiracy in South Carolina history.
The charges included inmates accused of orchestrating drug and firearms distribution from prison as well as the murder and kidnapping of those accused of tipping off law enforcement.
The case originally began in 2017 and has involved more than 10 law-enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
Forty people were charged with orchestrating murder, kidnapping, drugs, and firearms distribution in the largest federal racketeering conspiracy in South Carolina history, according to a press release from the US Department of Justice on Thursday.
The indictment from a federal grand jury charged the 40 defendants with conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as RICO, as well as multiple charges under the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering statute.
Of the 40 charged in the federal indictment, four were already serving sentences in the South Carolina Department of Corrections.
The Justice Department said the scheme was operated by members of the Insane Gangster Disciples, a branch of the Folk Nation alliance of street gangs. According to the indictment, the IGD operates both “inside and outside of prisons and jails in South Carolina and elsewhere.”
The indictment alleges that IGD members ran a drug empire from prison using contraband cellphones. Gang members outside are accused of murdering and kidnapping those who were believed to be covertly tipping off law enforcement or stealing from the organization.
The case began in 2017 and was a joint investigation with more than 10 law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
During the investigation, federal agents seized 88 pounds of methamphetamine, 130 firearms, and mixed amounts of heroin and fentanyl.
All 40 defendants haven’t entered pleas yet, but of those who have, some have pleaded not guilty, while at least one has plead guilty.
According to Pew Charitable Trusts, methamphetamine overdoses across the US have risen at much higher rates than in the first decade of the opioid crisis. Pew data shows a fourfold increase in methamphetamine overdoses between 2012 and 2017 – about half the time it took for opioid overdoses to increase by the same amount.
Additional data from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control shows that opioid overdoses in South Carolina most recently increased by 7% between 2018 to 2019.
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to plague the US, federal officials have promised to continue to clamp down on organized crime.
“Neither pandemic nor prison walls will provide refuge from the full force of the federal government,” US Attorney Peter M. McCoy Jr. of the District of South Carolina said in the press release. “Be it in jail or on the outside, organized crime organizations in South Carolina will be sought out as aggressively as the law allows.”
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