‘Stranded Bandit’ meth traffickers sentenced to substantial federal prison terms
Conspiracy spread drugs throughout coastal and south Georgia
SAVANNAH, GA (STL.News) A gang member and leader in a major methamphetamine trafficking operation and a codefendant each have been sentenced to more than 20 years in federal prison for spreading drugs into coastal and south Georgia.
David Hamilton Sharpe, a/k/a “David Dukkedoff,” 28, of Pembroke, Ga., was sentenced to 292 months in federal prison, and Jose Zepeda, 36, of Gray, Ga., was sentenced to 235 months in prison, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Both men pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute More than 50 Grams of Methamphetamine, and U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker also recommended that Sharpe serve his sentence outside the Southern District, and ordered each defendant to serve five years of supervised release after completion of their prison terms.
There is no parole in the federal system.
“Violent, armed drug traffickers and criminal gang members are a clear and present danger to our communities,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “We continue to work with our law enforcement partners to make our streets safer by identifying these criminals and holding them accountable.”
Sharpe and Zepeda were among 35 defendants indicted as part of Operation Stranded Bandit, as described in the indictment unsealed in December 2020 in USA v. Baker et al. Sharpe, a member of the Ghost Face Gangsters criminal street gang, was incarcerated in state prison during the three years of the investigation and used contraband cell phones to direct shipments of methamphetamine from the Atlanta area and into the Southern District. During a search of his residence in October 2019, just one month after his release from state prison, Sharpe was arrested after agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found him in possession of a large quantity of methamphetamine and multiple firearms. The arrest took place in Bryan County, from which Sharpe previously had been judicially banished.
Zepeda was arrested in Jones County, Ga., along with other members of the conspiracy in June 2019 as he was delivering four pounds of methamphetamine.
Operation Stranded Bandit grew from other major gang-related drug trafficking prosecutions in Operation Vanilla Gorilla and Operation Who’s Laughing Now. The investigations and prosecutions, coordinated under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), targeted widespread, gang-related drug trafficking organizations in the Southern District and beyond.
Of the 35 defendants charged in Operation Stranded Bandit, at least 26 have entered guilty pleas with 17 of them sentenced to prison terms of up to 292 months, while nine are awaiting trail and are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
“These sentences are the direct result of our partnership with state, local and other federal law enforcement agencies across Georgia” said ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Beau Kolodka. “Violent criminal organizations such as the Ghostface Gangsters impact both large and small communities across our state, and we will continue to target this and similar the organizations and disrupt their criminal enterprises.”
“The coastal and South Georgia communities celebrate these defendants’ sentences,” said Robert J. Murphy, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “These notorious, gang-related drug dealers who distributed poison throughout the region caused fear through means of violence and intimidation. Investigative skill and cooperative partnerships left this once-thriving drug distribution network disrupted and dismantled. This effort would not have been successful without the spirited level of cooperation between our federal, state and local law enforcement counterparts.”
“Illegal drugs and criminal street gangs have no place in Georgia. These defendants were part of a criminal enterprise that has been threatening the safety of communities for years,” said Vic Reynolds, Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. “We will continue to work diligently along with our local and federal partners to investigate and dismantle drug trafficking organizations and criminal street gangs.”
The case is being investigated by agencies including the ATF, the DEA, the GBI, and the Savannah-Chatham Counter Narcotics Team, the Jones County Sheriff’s Office, the Bryan County Sheriff’s Office, the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office, and the Richmond Hill Police Department, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys E. Greg Gilluly Jr. and Jennifer J. Kirkland.