South Carolina; Matthew Ward and sixteen others Defendants Charged in Midlands-based Federal Drug Conspiracy after Multi-Year Investigation
(STL.News) – United States Attorney Peter M. McCoy, Jr. announced today that federal, state, and local law enforcement officers charged 17 individuals in federal court for their roles in a drug trafficking organization that operated out of the Midlands region of South Carolina.
The charges follow a more than two-year long investigation by federal, state, and local law enforcement into a methamphetamine distribution ring in the Lexington area. The investigation resulted in the seizure of approximately 35 kilograms of methamphetamine, 116 firearms, and various quantities of heroin and fentanyl.
“The people of South Carolina deserve safe places to call home,” said U.S. Attorney McCoy. “When we work deliberatively with our federal, state, and local partners, we are able to dismantle entire drug-dealing organizations and make communities safer. These charges speak to those efforts.”
“Collaborative public safety efforts such as this investigation have an immediate and long-lasting impact on our communities,” said Vincent Pallozzi, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge. “The work we do in partnership with our local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies has made significant and ongoing progress in creating safer neighborhoods.”
“This operation shows how local and federal agencies can work together to make communities safer,” said Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon. “In operations like these, deputies and agents teamed up to get sources of drugs and weapons off the street. We’re thankful for the relationships we have with our counterparts at the federal level. When we have a united front against crime that really makes a difference in the lives of those we serve.”
The following defendants have been charged in the criminal complaint for conduct related to their alleged roles in the drug trafficking organization:
- Matthew Ward, 36, of Lexington;
- Alecia Youngblood, 38, of Lexington;
- Cynthia Rooks, 52, of Lexington;
- Rebecca Martinez, 33, of Lexington;
- Richard Ford, 62, of Lexington;
- Amber Hoffman, 26, of Lexington;
- Samuel Judy, 29, of Lexington;
- Brian Bruce, 48, of West Columbia;
- Montana Barefoot, 25, of Lexington;
- John Johnson, 36, of Gaston;
- Benjamin Singleton, 46, of Gaston;
- Kayla Mattoni, 38, of Lexington;
- Clifford Kyzer, 35, of Lexington;
- Kelly Jordan, 34, of Williamston;
- Kelly Still, 43, of Windsor;
- Tiffanie Brooks, 36, of Columbia; and
- Robert Figueroa, 43, of West Columbia.
The case began in July 2017 as an investigation by a number of agencies, including ATF, the Lexington County Multi-Agency Narcotics Enforcement Team, and the Eleventh Circuit Solicitor’s Office, into methamphetamine trafficking and the illegal sale of firearms. According to the criminal complaint, the investigation identified Youngblood, Ward, and others as key methamphetamine suppliers for major distributors in the Lexington area. Further, the investigation ultimately identified Ward as a leader of the drug trafficking organization, which would move drugs across state lines and which also participated in the unlicensed dealing of firearms. During the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers used controlled purchases, confidential informants, and other means to identify, arrest, and charge the other alleged members of the drug trafficking organization.
The case was investigated by the ATF, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, Lexington County Multi-Agency Narcotics Enforcement Team, Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, and South Carolina Department of Corrections.
This case is being prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Casey Rankin Smith of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit is prosecuting the case, alongside Trial Attorney Lisa Man with the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brandi Hinton and Justin Holloway of the Greenville office.
The United States Attorney stated that all charges against these defendants are merely accusations and that all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.