Inside information and a surprise shakedown at the Lumpkin County Detention Center were key in the recent arrests of several inmates and outside suspects accused of a gang-related conspiracy to sneak methamphetamine into the downtown jail, said officials with the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office.
“Luckily we got to it when it had just started,” said Sheriff Stacy Jarrard when talking to The Nugget last week.
Jarrard added that similar drug-smuggling schemes have been occurring in bigger prisons for years, but lately it’s happening in smaller towns.
“It’s bleeding into county jails,” said Jarrard. “Gangs such as Ghostface Gang, Gangster Disciples, Aryan Brotherhood, they’re all linked together where they monitor people in jails and they have someone on the outside who will deliver items to them.”
In this case, that outside contact was allegedly Kimberly Biggs.
The 26 year old Dawsonville resident was able to pass an undetermined amount of methamphetamine beneath the fence at the jail, where trustee inmates, who were taking a break from kitchen duty, were able to snatch the drug, said Jarrard.
“They were work detail inmates so they have some freedom,” said Investigator Alan Roach. “As they were out there, Kimberly Biggs was able to hide drugs for them to be able to obtain.”
Those drugs were reportedly taken into the jail later that day and shared by inmates Chad Jackson, 31, of Dahlonega; Walker Esters, 21, of Dahlonega; James Dowdy Jr., 33, of Dahlonega, Shannon Kendall, 42, of Mt. Airy; and Demetrius Jones, 47, of Dahlonega.
The next day, guards received info that the drugs were in the jail and drug tests ensued.
When the accused inmates tested positive, officers then took the investigation up a notch.
“The investigation went further with lockdown of the jail and a sweep of the jail,” said Jarrard.
That search turned up a small amount of meth residue that was reportedly hidden in a mattress.
After further investigation, officers were able to track down Biggs as the alleged source of the drug.
Last Wednesday she was transported to Lumpkin County Detention Center and charged with distribution of methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine, crossing of guard lines with contraband and participation in a criminal street gang.
Jackson, Esters, Jones, Dowdy and Kendall were charged with possession of a drug by an inmate, possession of methamphetamine with intent, participation in a criminal street gang and use of communication facility in committing or facilitating a drug transaction.
The investigation continued throughout the week as officers reportedly determined that Biggs’ provider was 38 year old Dahlonega resident Calvin J. Turner.
This resulted in search warrants for two residences associated with Turner, one in Hall County and another in Lumpkin.
Those searches ultimately led to the arrest of Turner, Megan Thomas, 28, of Dahlonega: Linda Couch, 39, of Dahlonega; Kelly Haas, 39, of Dahlonega; and Corey Bailey, 30 of Dahlonega.
Turner was charged in Hall County with trafficking methamphetamine, possession of a Schedule II Narcotic, possession of marijuana, possession of drug related objects, possession of a firearm during certain crimes, and possession of firearm by a convicted felon. More charges are pending in Lumpkin County.
Thomas was booked into Hall County on charges of trafficking methamphetamine, possession of a Schedule II Narcotic, possession of marijuana, possession of drug related objects, and possession of a firearm during certain crimes. Couch was charged with possession of methamphetamine.
Haas was charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug related objects.
Bailey was charged with a probation violation.
Following the arrests, Jarrard said this type of case was a first for his administration. But he’s working to hopefully make it the last.
“The work detail force, some of them, let their guard down and people were able to sneak something in on a Sunday afternoon,” he said. “And I’m liable for that.”
Jarrard said that means he has put a temporary halt to the popular inmate trustee program as he reviews the details and retrains some of his work force.
“The county utilizes this force of labor,” Jarrard said. “…But I have to stop it until I can make sure it’s as safe as possible.”
County Manager Stan Kelley said the trustee program is crucial to local operations and saves tax payer dollars in the process.
“We can usually manage for a few days without inmates,” he said. “The Sheriff informed me that we would be without them for about a week prior to his decision. With that said, the ability to have inmate labor is a huge value to the tax payers of Lumpkin County. When available, we use inmate labor at the County Maintenance Shop, Animal Shelter, P&R, Facilities Maintenance, Fire Dept. and Road Dept. Not including what the Sheriff uses for road clean-up. “
Meanwhile, Jarrard said he held a special class earlier this week designed to help retrain employees and review procedures.
“This is just a great service to the community and the people who are incarcerated really enjoy doing in,” he said. “But we just have to do it in a safe environment. And that’s what the class was about.”