By Jason A. Smith
The Henry County Sheriff's Office earned a big reward for helping to take millions of dollars of drug money off the streets.
Sheriff Keith McBrayer accepted $1,223,115.34, Thursday, for his department's work during a major drug investigation and bust.
About $8 million was distributed to five police agencies for their participation in "Operation Four Horsemen." The operation combined the efforts of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and other departments in the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
The transfer of funds was overseen by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta.
The Henry Sheriff's Office, McBrayer said, has a pair of agents assigned to the task force. "The [Henry] agents had been keeping up with where the drugs were," he said, " ... keeping up with where the money was, and where the bad guys were. They would pick locations and times for when it was appropriate ... to stop vehicles for different reasons.
"These drugs were coming from Mexico," McBrayer said, "and coming through Laredo, Texas ... to Atlanta. "So, you can see how many jurisdictions and drop-off points there were between here and there. On a three-year operation like this, there were a lot of traffic stops, and there were a lot of search warrants."
During the Atlanta-based investigation, a total of $23,834,407 -- and 567 kilograms of cocaine -- were seized, according to Patrick Crosby, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta. He said 23 members of the drug organization were arrested, as part of the probe.
"Beginning in mid-2007, the DEA initiated an investigation which ultimately uncovered two Mexico-based drug trafficking cells operating in the Atlanta area," Crosby said. "The investigation revealed that the cells operated in a similar fashion, receiving multi-kilogram shipments of cocaine that arrived in tractor-trailers from Mexico. After the drug traffickers received the cocaine shipments, they shipped millions of dollars in U.S. currency back to Mexico by concealing the money in tractor-trailers and other vehicles."
McBrayer added that Henry County took center stage in the investigation, on Jan. 22, 2009, on Interstate 75 south of McDonough. Agents, he said, stopped a vehicle which was being used by the drug organization.
"They actually got $4.7 million in currency, out of the vehicle," McBrayer added. "They knew that money had been picked up at the Mall of Georgia, and that money was being returned back to Mexico. The drugs were coming from Mexico to Atlanta. They were being used in several stash houses around the metro Atlanta area, [and] stayed there until it needed to be distributed down the east coast."
McBrayer said the money his agency received, Thursday, can be used for training, and equipment for his officers.
The GBI received $1,223,115.34 for its part in Operation Four Horsemen. A total of $2,096,769.15 went to the Lawrenceville Police Department, and $1,048,384.58 to the Georgia Department of Public Safety.
The Troup County Sheriff's Office was given $174,730.76, for assisting with the investigation.
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates described Operation Four Horsemen as "one of the largest drug and money cases in this district in recent history. The law enforcement officers working this case seized over $23 million in cash, which was on its way back to Mexico to fuel the cartels," she said. "By taking money out of the pockets of the cartels and putting it into our local law enforcement, we can help provide the resources necessary for our local law enforcement agencies to fight an international threat.
"Our partnership with the state and local counterparts," she said, "is critical to effective law enforcement in this district."