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Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock participates in a press conference announcing the arrests of a few dozen people. The arrests are the first of Operation New Optix involving federal, state and local law enforcement officers targeting interstate drug trafficking. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

A DEA-led investigation into an interstate drug trafficking ring resulted in the arrests of 18 people in Myrtle Beach, Conway and Florence Tuesday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the district of South Carolina.

A total of 26 people are charged in federal court as a result of Operation New Optix: more than 80 law enforcement officers arrested 18 suspects Tuesday morning, three suspects were already incarcerated on other charges and five haven’t been arrested yet, law enforcement officials said. 

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Nathan Williams, criminal chief with the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of South Carolina, announces the arrests of a few dozen people. The arrests are the first of Operation New Optix involving federal, state and local law enforcement officers targeting interstate drug trafficking. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

All 26 are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine or cocaine base of various weights. Two suspects face cannabis-related charges and one is charged with “possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.” 

Property subject to forfeiture as part of the investigation includes a BWM 650i, a BMW X5, a Mercedes-Benz GLE and an Infinity Q60. The indictment doesn't say who the cars belonged to. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Everett McMillian said the organization trafficked dozens of kilograms of drugs over the past several years, and charges for those involved are based on actions dating back about two years. A kilogram is about 2.2 pounds. 

“Operation New Optix is a multi-year investigation that targeted members of an interstate drug trafficking organization that is responsible for bringing multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine and marijuana into South Carolina, then redistributing that cocaine, some of which was cooked into crack cocaine, and the marijuana, to other members of our community,” McMillian said during a news conference Tuesday. 

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Everett E. McMillian, assistant with the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of South Carolina, announces the arrests of a few dozen people. The arrests are the first of Operation New Optix involving federal, state and local law enforcement officers targeting interstate drug trafficking. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Law enforcement agencies that assisted with the investigation included Myrtle Beach police, Horry County police, North Myrtle Beach police, Conway police, the Horry County Sheriff’s Office, the Florence County Sheriff’s Office, the 15th Judicial Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

It’s the latest in a series of operations targeting drug traffickers and distributors in the area. Operation Silver Sunset targeted 28 associates of the Billy Bloods, a subsidiary of the United Blood Nation, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In 2018, Operation Rise and Shine went after 33 associates of the G-Shine/SMB, another Bloods affiliate. And earlier this year, Operation Broken Branch targeted 31 members of a drug trafficking organization that operated out of the Cedar Branch area of Horry County. 

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Horry County Police Chief Joseph Hill participates in a press conference announcing the arrests of a few dozen people. The arrests are the first of Operation New Optix involving federal, state and local law enforcement officers targeting interstate drug trafficking. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

“We are working together to make a difference, to make a difference in our community, and that is exactly what is happening,” said Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock. “These cases are what’s going to make that difference and make a change, and we need to work together to continue to do that. Those that are in custody and those that have worked hard, the 80-plus officers and agents in all agencies that worked together to do that today are making that difference and will continue to work on cases such as these that have made a difference like today.” 

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Nathan Williams, criminal chief with the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of South Carolina, announces the arrests of a few dozen people. The arrests are the first of Operation New Optix involving federal, state and local law enforcement officers targeting interstate drug trafficking. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

A list of those arrested and charged provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office is as follows:

• Shackeel Coleman, 29, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 10 years to life imprisonment.  

• Kimo Felton, 41, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 10 years to life imprisonment.  

• Harry Bellamy, 41, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, 28 grams of cocaine base, and a quantity of marijuana. This charge carries a potential penalty of 10 years to life imprisonment.  

• Steven Jeffcoat, 30, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 28 grams of cocaine base. This charge carries a potential penalty of 10 years to life imprisonment. 

• Lenard Hemingway, 53, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.  

• Yenitza Coleman, 27, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.  

• Jasamine Mitchell, 32, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.  

• Timothy McCray, 31, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 28 grams of cocaine base and a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment

• Henry Boyd, 39, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base and a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.  

• Timothy Lee, 27, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.  

• Jacqueline Strickland, 59, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.  

• Venson Strickland, 29, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base and a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.  

• James Graham, 30, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.  

• Alonzo Lee Pierce, 37, of Galivants Ferry is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base and a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.  

• Gary Jackson, 30, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.  

• Alton Brown, 41, of Florence is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of cocaine and a quantity of cocaine base. This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.  

• Joshua Darby, 32, of Murrells Inlet is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of cocaine and a quantity of cocaine base. This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.  

• Travis Rogers, 40, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.  

• Kevin Linnen, 33, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.  

• Mario Williams, 41, of Florence is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of cocaine and a quantity of marijuana. This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.  

• Robert Hooker, 40, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.  

Those who have been charged and not arrested include the suspects below.

• Bradley Adams, 26, of Myrtle Beach is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.  

• Brandon Prawl, 35, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine and 28 grams or more of cocaine base. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.  

• Quentin Smith, 29, of Conway is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base. This charge carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years imprisonment.  He is also charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime which carries a potential penalty of 5 years consecutive to any other penalty imposed.  

• Curtis McArthur, 35, of Longs is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.  

• Ernest Smalls Jr, 38, of Little River is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute a quantity of cocaine. This charge carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment.  

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