BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis announced the arrests of dozens of individuals during an on-going narcotics investigation.
Sheriff Lewis held a press conference Tuesday morning with Jason Sandoval, Resident Agent in Charge of the Charleston DEA, 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson and senior members of Tri-County law enforcement agencies.
The seven-month investigation resulted in the arrest of 15 individuals from Berkeley County and 45 individuals from across the tri-county area.
“This investigation has gone beyond the tri-county area—actually brought us to Mexico, where we all know that’s where a large percentage of our illegal narcotics is coming into this country and we are not immune from it in the tri-county area,” said Sheriff Lewis.
Out of the 15 arrests, Sheriff Lewis said investigators were able to recover 14 ounces of heroin – which was the target of the investigation and 11 pounds of methamphetamine.
“What we wanted to do was go beyond the street level dealers and go after the folks that are wholesaling illegal narcotics in Berkeley and the tri-county,” he said.
Authorities also seized 92 illegal firearms in Berkeley County and a total of $106,000 in cash because of this drug investigation.
“I want the people to know that we are working together to go after the drug problem,” he said. “I also want the citizens to know those people who called us, sent us messages, sent emails, called the drug tip line—all of those things are not forgotten. Those are things that we use to put together this type of large-scale.”
Solicitor Wilson said she cannot explain how gratifying it is to see how law enforcement agencies from both counties working together in this drug investigation.
“What we’re seeing across the country is really unbelievable with the opioid crisis,” she said. “We’re fooling ourselves if we think it’s only opioids because all of these things are tied together.”
Three of the arrests were directly related to overdose deaths.
To put it into perspective, the tri-county area has 240% of the national average for overdose deaths. In Charleston County, 140 people died from overdose deaths in 2018.
Wilson said what she wanted the public to realize is that it’s not that people are out there partying, but that people are out there dying.
”These drugs are killing people. These criminals with guns are killing people. This effort was a great step forward for our area and I think it shows that we are working side-by-side to address these things,” she said. “We can take care of the addicts, we have programs for the addicts – this isn’t about the addicts and the street level folks, this is about the real deals who are hurting people.”
Because of this investigation, Sheriff Lewis said 19 people have been federally indicted on charges of conspiracy, distribution of heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamines and a host of other charged that will be included by local and federal agencies.
Sheriff Lewis said this case is not closed and not everyone has been apprehended. He said they are still working on several individuals.
“Let this be a message to you, look over your shoulder, we’re going to be there,” said Sheriff Lewis. “You never know who you are selling to. It might be an undercover agent. Beware, we’re not going to stop—this is just the beginning.”