The investigation, dubbed Operation Pulaski, began in late 2011. Most of those charged in the indictments live in Georgia and South Carolina. Four other people face state gun and drug charges as part of the investigation, and another eight people were indicted and prosecuted last year.
“Operation Pulaski was a relentless effort to remove illegal guns from the streets of our communities and to halt the illegal sale of guns, especially where the transactions were being conducted by violent criminals,” U.S. Attorney Edward J. Tarver said in a statement. “This undercover operation serves as notice to the criminal element that if you traffic in firearms, drugs, or stolen cars in this district, you will be apprehended and you will be prosecuted.”
Undercover federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives infiltrated multiple regional and international criminal organizations. Over time, the agents bought 189 guns, including handguns, assault rifles, sawed-off shotguns and machine guns; illegal drugs, including more than 200 grams of heroin and more than 4 kilograms of cocaine; and stolen vehicles.
Investigators found that the vehicles were stolen from the New York City area and were brought to the Southeast for resale or to be shipped abroad and sold.
Authorities believe 26 of those arrested are convicted felons. Eleven are believed to be in the country illegally. A number of the guns the undercover agents bought had also been reported stolen.
Authorities made numerous arrests in the case on Tuesday and Wednesday, and some of those arrested are set to have their initial court appearances in federal court in Statesboro today.
The investigation was a collaboration between the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Savannah, the ATF and the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department, with additional investigative support from other agencies.