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8 houses are searched in drug raids

Federal, state and local agencies converged on Thomson Monday morning to conduct a series of raids, seize evidence and make arrests on mid- and upper-level drug dealers in the area.

"The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is proud of the partnerships of these agencies and we are proud of the impact this will make on the citizens of this county and surrounding counties," said Fred Stevens, the inspector of drug enforcement for the GBI. "This certainly is a good day for this state."

Agents from the GBI, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Agency, State Board of Pardons and Parole, Georgia State Patrol, Richmond County Sheriff's Office, Columbia County Sheriff's Office, and McDuffie County Sheriff's Office simultaneously executed search warrants at eight houses in Thomson between 6 and 7 a.m. The agencies make up the CSRA Safe Streets Task Force, said Anthony Russo, the supervisory of FBI office in Augusta. Agent Russo said the task force's main goal is to target and dismount violent criminal organizations in the area.

The force has been working on the Thomson case for nine months.

"This says a lot about the cooperation and partnership of all the agencies involved," Agent Russo said. "Significant contributions in human resources were made by (Richmond County Sherriff Ronnie) Strength and (Columbia County Sheriff Clay) Whittle even though it won't immediately impact their counties."

Evidence seized during the raids included motorcycles, vehicles, guns and ammunition, high-end recording equipment, lawn care equipment, jewelry, drugs and money.

Agent Russo said the Safe Streets Task Force made similar busts in Richmond County in recent years -- at Barton Village in 2008 and at Dogwood Terrace in 2009.

As of press time Tuesday, McDuffie County Sheriff Major Ronnie Williamson said one arrest has been made in the FBI raid case. Kevin Gaines, 29, of the 1000 block of Old Wrightsboro Road was charged with theft by receiving stolen property and criminal use of an article with an altered identification number.

Maj. Williamson said the article was lawn maintenance equipment. Maj. Williamson confirmed that four other suspects in the case were still on investigative hold at the McDuffie Law Enforcement Center Tuesday morning. He said arrests would be pending later Tuesday afternoon.

Agent Russo previously said most suspects involved could be arrested on state and probation charges and federal charges will be forthcoming.

"I want to thank all the agents who headed this up," McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshal said. "I feel it's really been a success to get this done. It means we will be able to take some of these people off the streets, and that will help McDuffie County."

Addresses in Thomson that were raided Monday:

-1234 Royal St.

-1081-A Old Wrightsboro Rd.

-217 Downing St.

-1237 Royal St.

-113 Shank St.

-208 Hawes St.

-712 Hayes Line Lane

-718 Robin St.

Web posted on Thursday, May 27, 2010

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