MARION COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – A "major drug investigation" across Horry, Marion and Florence counties has resulted in 125 charges being filed against 24 people.
According to a press release from South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, the case is known as "Gimme the Loot." The defendants are charged with various counts, including trafficking heroin, trafficking cocaine, trafficking crack, trafficking methamphetamine, trafficking marijuana and money laundering.
"I want to thank all of the hard work of the men and women of the State Grand Jury division of the Attorney General's Office as well as the outstanding work of the men and women in law enforcement who are on the front lines of this battle," Wilson said in a statement.
On Monday, a bond hearing was held for the 24 defendants - 22 men and two women - on various drug offenses. Some defendants had a lengthy criminal history before the arrests.
One defendant's possession of heroin charge is allegedly linked to at least one local heroin overdose death.
State authorities say the investigation started in 2016, spanning the Grand Strand and Pee Dee.
Wiretapping played a major role in collecting evidence against the defendants. Creighton Waters, a chief attorney with the Grand State Jury, said with the State Grand Jury, multiple state and local law enforcement agencies were able work together in the case.
"It really allows it to be that central mechanism that can make use of the local resources that know these communities the best, make use of SLED and its narcotics officers who have the expertise in these cases and then, of course, make use of the grand jury, which is really a great tool getting to the truth and addressing these conspiracies," Waters said.
Authorities said in the wake of a statewide opioid crisis, this case is a major win. Marion County Sheriff Brian Wallace said stopping illegal drugs is one of his top priorities.
"We (are) not going to stop today. We're going to continue to fight this day in and day out," said Wallace. "People deserve to be safe in their communities. They deserve to live where they can go out on the porch and don't have to worry about drug dealers coming up, and people coming to their houses and getting hurt."
During the press conference, state officials thanked local authorities for their role in the investigation, with teamwork playing a big part in the operation.
Florence County Chief Deputy Glen Kirby said the arrests were made possible by all three counties working together.
"It benefits us all because these drug dealers don't know county lines," Kirby said. "They come back and forth across, selling from Darlington to Marion to Florence, and Florence is the hub of the Pee Dee, so we find that a lot of them reside there on the weekends in hotel and motels that we have."
Wilson stressed that all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty in a court of law.
The investigation is still ongoing.