One of six men charged in a Columbia-area drug trafficking ring this week previously faced trafficking charges in Richland County that were later dismissed, according to law enforcement records.
Jermaine Tyrone Southall, 40, who also goes by “Big Dog,” “Cuzzo” and “Big Man,” has been indicted on federal charges of distributing and conspiring to distribute cocaine and heroin and using a telephone to facilitate drug trafficking, according to federal officials.
Southall and five other men – Bilal Ibn Habib Muhammad, Jamie Patterson, Lee Taylor Ball, Christopher Fulton and Aaron Meroney – were arrested after an eight-month investigation by local and federal law enforcement agencies that was dubbed “Operation Pop Rocks.”
All six waived their Thursday detention hearing. Patterson was not in court because he was being treated for a medical condition, which his attorney did not disclose in court.
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Family members of Fulton were in the courtroom but declined to speak with a reporter afterward.
Southall was charged in August 2009 by Richland County investigators with two counts of trafficking cocaine and one count of trafficking heroin, according to county court records. A grand jury only indicted him on one of the cocaine charges, and court records list the charges as being dismissed in April 2010.
The 2009 indictment states Southall was involved in trafficking more than 100 grams of crack cocaine into Richland County. It was unclear Thursday why the charge was dismissed.
A federal indictment on the most recent charges states the six defendants had “1 kilogram or more” of a mixture containing heroin and a quantity of cocaine and cocaine base that they planned to distribute.
At least three more defendants appear to be listed on the indictment posted on a federal court website; however, their identities are blacked out.
Law enforcement seized two Porsches, two Mercedes, two Ford minibuses, a Dodge van and two handguns during the investigation, according to the indictment.
The joint investigation included the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, Columbia Police Department, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s Columbia task force, the State Law Enforcement Division, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Postal Service and the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.
Richland investigators and the DEA were sharing intelligence on smaller investigations being conducted around the area and learned other police agencies were making undercover purchases of heroin and crack cocaine that were supplied by this trafficking organization, officials said.