The Athens-Clarke County Police Department this month received recognition from the Georgia Gang Investigators Association for its efforts during Operation Tourniquet in 2021. ACCPD officers and detectives received the “Regional Investigator of the Year” award during the recent Georgia Gang Investigators Association Conference. The award is shared between the FBI Safe Streets Gang Task Force, ACCPD Gang Unit, and the GBI Gang Unit.
Operation Tourniquet was a multi-jurisdictional operation that focused on the distribution of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs by street gang members
From the U.S. Department of Justice on June 21, 2023;
Blood Gang Leader Armed with Machine Gun Pleads Guilty with Co-Conspirator to Distributing Fentanyl from China
Third Co-Defendant Remains At-Large
ATHENS, Ga. – The leader of the 1831 Piru Blood criminal street gang in Athens and a co-conspirator pleaded guilty to federal fentanyl distribution charges this week resulting from “Operation Tourniquet,” a lengthy FBI-led investigation.
Gregory O’Neal Wade, Jr. aka “Woop” aka “Big Homie” aka “OOG,” 31, of Athens, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and fentanyl, one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and fentanyl and one count of possession of an illegal machine gun. Wade, Jr. faces a mandatory minimum of ten years up to a maximum sentence of life in prison to be followed by a maximum of five years of supervised release and a maximum $10,000,000 fine. Co-defendant Johnathan Edward Brown aka “Zeus,” 31, formerly of Riverdale, Georgia, pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and fentanyl. Brown faces a mandatory minimum of ten years up to a maximum sentence of life in prison to be followed by a maximum of five years of supervised release and a maximum $1,000,000 fine. The hearings occurred before U.S. District Judge Tilman E. “Tripp” Self III on June 20. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 3, 2023.
“Fentanyl, Glock switches and gangs is a particularly deadly combination and one which has no place on the streets of Athens,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “Operation Tourniquet’s success is the result of the excellent partnership between many law enforcement agencies focused on reducing violent crime and the spread of fentanyl.”
“The gangs pushing deadly fentanyl in our communities have a role in fueling the deadliest drug epidemic our country has ever seen,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI is determined to continue working with our partners to cut the head off the snake by targeting the leaders of these operations and removing them from our streets.”
“Criminal street gangs continue to wreak havoc in Georgia communities,” said GBI Director Mike Register. “The results from Operation Tourniquet underscore the importance of law enforcement partnerships to tackle violent crimes and these serious drug offenses. The GBI remains committed to working with our local and federal partners.”
“This successful outcome of Operation Tourniquet is a testament to the invaluable partnerships we have with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. The collaborative efforts have allowed us to disrupt a significant threat to our community,” said Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Jerry Saulters. “I want to emphasize that we will not tolerate the presence of gangs, or the distribution of deadly substances like fentanyl within our community and will continue to prioritize our efforts against such networks.”
According to court documents, Wade and his 1831 Piru associates were the subjects of a lengthy joint investigation into violent crime and fentanyl distribution in the Athens-Clarke County region named “Operation Tourniquet.” The 1831 Piru Bloods are a set of the nationally affiliated Piru street gang, which originated in the 1960s in Compton, California. Throughout 2020 and 2021, the 1831 Piru Bloods engaged in numerous illegal acts involving drugs and firearms in the Athens-area, when Wade was its leader. The criminal street gang claimed two Athens apartment complexes as their territory—The Flats and Regency Park Apartments, referred to as “The Trenches” by gang members—and frequently sold guns and drugs from those locations.
As a result of “Operation Tourniquet,” agents ultimately executed a search warrant at Wade’s Jennings Mill Parkway apartment in July 2021. Wade attempted to evade arrest by leaping out of a third story window but was quickly apprehended by a police K-9 and his handler. Inside the apartment, officers found Brown and D’Angelo Caleb Perkins aka “Yak,” 26, of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, who had been staying with Wade. The apartment contained almost a kilogram of fentanyl, approximately 90 grams of cocaine and over eight pounds of marijuana. In Wade’s bedroom dresser drawer, officers found a Glock 19 with an auto sear switch, a mechanism that converts a semi-automatic handgun into a fully automatic machine gun. In the same drawer, a 30-round extended magazine and a 50-round drum (high capacity) magazine was recovered. Wade admitted that he kept the machine gun as protection from those who might do him harm. Officers found additional firearms, a “kilo press” used to compress illegal drugs purchased by Brown and a money counter in Wade’s apartment.
On June 6, 2021, Brown communicated with a drug supplier in China who was using the name "Convert.” Brown requested to purchase one kilogram of fentanyl to which Convert sent a reply message: "Sorry, the product you interested are controlled product in China." Brown then began to communicate over WhatsApp with a new source named "Marcus" and negotiated a one-kilogram fentanyl transaction. Wade, along with Brown, admitted to buying and selling large quantities of fentanyl and other drugs for distribution in the Athens community.
Co-conspirator Perkins is wanted on multiple federal charges, including conspiracy to distribute cocaine and fentanyl, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and fentanyl, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Perkins remains at-large. Anyone with information regarding Perkins’ whereabouts is urged to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov. An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
This case is being prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, 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.
This case was investigated by the FBI Athens Middle Georgia Safe Streets Gang Task Force, the GBI Gang Unit, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department Gang Unit, the Northeast Georgia Regional Drug Task Force, the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Department of Corrections.