Drone Shop Owner Arrested in Largest Georgia Prison Contraband Operation

In what authorities believe to be the largest criminal operation of its kind in history, agents have uncovered a network involving a drone repair shop owner and his employee allegedly using drones to smuggle contraband, including drugs, guns, and cell phones, into dozens of prisons across the state, reports WSB-TV.

Thunder Drones Owner and Employee Arrested

The Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) special agents conducted “Operation Skyhawk,” which culminated in raids targeting networks involved in drone drops of into Georgia prisons.

One of the key focuses of the investigation was a business called Thunder Drones in Gwinnett County. The owner, Robert Schwartz, and his employee, Nelda Alber, were arrested on charges related to drone drops of contraband and inmate communications.

Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Mark Winne was present at Thunder Drones when the arrests took place.

When asked about his involvement, Schwartz replied, “All I do is repair drones. I've been repairing radio-controlled things for 50 years. I don't know what they're even here for.”

Drone Shop Owner Arrested In Largest Georgia Prison Contraband Operation

Massive Seizure of Contraband

During the course of the investigation, agents stopped approximately 170 prison drone drops and seized more than 50 drones in two simultaneous raids. The contraband recovered included:

  • 51 pounds of what appeared to be ecstasy (possibly containing deadly fentanyl)
  • 22 guns (believed to be intended for security for the drone operations)
  • 273 cell phones

Largest Gang RICO Case in Georgia History

GDC Commissioner Tyrone Oliver emphasized the significance of this case, stating, “This will be the largest gang RICO case in the history of the state of Georgia, and it originated by the men and women here at Georgia Department of Corrections.”

Prosecutors are working with GDC special agents to ask grand juries across the state to return RICO and gang indictments against Schwartz and many others involved in the operation.

Additional Arrests and Raids

The investigation, which began in November 2022, has led to the arrest of 146 individuals associated with contraband drops, including eight correctional officers. A second raid was conducted on Schwartz's home, and while agents were at Thunder Drones, two men who pulled into the parking lot and attempted to leave were also searched. A stolen gun was found in their car, leading to one arrest.

“Operation Skyhawk” has exposed an extensive network of individuals, including a drone repair shop owner and his employee, allegedly involved in smuggling contraband into Georgia prisons using drones. The GDC's efforts have led to a significant seizure of drugs, weapons, and cell phones, and the arrest of numerous individuals, including correctional officers. As the investigation continues, prosecutors are working to bring RICO and gang indictments against those involved in what is believed to be the largest operation of its kind in Georgia's history.

Photos courtesy of WSB-TV Atlanta Channel 2.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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