Crime & Courts

34 indicted in meth trafficking operation run from state prisons

Robert Gracely, 44, left, and Nicanor Perez Rodriguez, 37, are accused of running a meth ring behind prison fences.
Robert Gracely, 44, left, and Nicanor Perez Rodriguez, 37, are accused of running a meth ring behind prison fences. Photos provided.

Nearly three dozen people, primarily from the Upstate and including two state prisoners, have been indicted as part of an investigation into a methamphetamine trafficking organization run largely out of two prisons.

Between January and May, a previously secret State Grand Jury investigation returned 19 indictments on conspiracy charges of trafficking of meth and heroin, firearms-related charges and other crimes, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office announced Tuesday.

Of the 34 indicted, two – Robert Anthony Gracely, 44, and Nicanor Perez Rodriguez, 37 – already were serving time in state prison on drug-trafficking charges.

Gracely, known as “Tony G,” was running the operation out of Columbia’s Broad River Correctional Insitution, while Perez Rodriguez , known as “Nico,” was operating from Lee Correctional Institution in the Pee Dee region, according to a news release.

An assistant deputy attorney general, Creighton Waters, declined to say whether there was any coordination between Gracely and Perez Rodriguez. Waters said the secrecy of State Grand Jury proceeding limit what he can discuss.

Gracely was booked into prison in 2013 on meth trafficking charges out of Greenville County, according to state records. Perez Rodriguez had been serving since 2009 on meth, marijuana and crack-cocaine trafficking charges. He, too, was charged in Greenville County.

Both inmates are now accused of running a meth trafficking organization from behind prison fences using contraband cell phones and smart phones to direct drug sales, deliveries, payments and other crimes of co-conspirators on the outside, Wilson said in the release.

The investigation is continuing under the direction of the State Law Enforcement Division, Wilson’s office said. SLED agents have been working with two dozen agencies, including the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Postal Service, as well as sheriffs in two Georgia and one North Carolina counties.

Contraband cell phones have long been a problem at corrections departments nationwide. In November, S.C. prisons director Bryan Stirling joined a call by the nation’s correctional administrators to have the federal government allow them to use cell phone-blocking technology.

The agency also is in the process of buying a system that allows them to find unauthorized cell phones within the state’s prisons.

In custody:

  • Robert Anthony Gracely a/k/a “Tony G,” 44, an inmate at Broad River Correctional Institution
  • Nicanor Perez Rodriguez a/k/a “Nico,” 37, an inmate at Lee Correctional Institution
  • Enrique Ascencio, 27, Greenville, SC
  • Lori Renae Banning, 40, Forest City, N.C.
  • Diego Javier Beltran, 35, Greenville, S.C.
  • Tiffani Ann Brown, 38, Athens, GA
  • Stephen Dell Burns, 46, Lyman, S.C.
  • Leslie Danielle Center, 31, Greer, S.C.
  • Amanda Marie Collins, 30, Greer, S.C.
  • Saladeem Ali Crumpler, 36, Effingham, S.C.
  • John Shannon Dickerson a/k/a “Shady”, 35, Greer, S.C.
  • Yosif Enibtawi a/k/a “Joseph”, 46, Greer, S.C.
  • Juan Carlos Rios Espinoza, 23, Doraville, GA
  • Beauford Brotus Hartin a/k/a “Tadpole”, 54, Marietta, S.C.
  • Jessica Jackson a/k/a “Jessica Csikari,” 31, Greer, SC
  • Richard Ryan Jones a/k/a “White”, 40, Gaffney, S.C.
  • Ronald Elmer Miller a/k/a “Gabby”, 54, Taylors, S.C.
  • Dwane Andrew Mitchell, 34, Easley, S.C.
  • Dennis Murguia-Holguin, 20, Tucker, GA
  • Kayla Shai Nichols, 24, Surfside Beach, S.C.
  • Salvador Ramirez, 32, Greenville, SC
  • Randy Stewart Sheppard, Jr. a/k/a “Bofa”, 31, Greenville, S.C.
  • Bryan Michael Stegall, 34, Murrells Inlet, S.C.
  • Michael Bobby Stegall, 50, Easley, S.C.
  • Fred Allen Stewart, 42, Moore, S.C.
  • Richard Edgar Thompson, 29, Easley, SC
  • Todd Scott Thorne, 43, Greer, S.C.
  • Gabrielle Annette Whitmire a/k/a “Gabby”, 35, Easley, S.C.
  • Wendolyn Faye Whitt, 52, Easley, S.C.

Charged but not in custody:

  • Gerri Moranda Blackwell, 34, Gaffney, S.C.
  • Robert Scott Musser, a/k/a “Joker”, 40, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
  • Sam Salvatore Passanisi, Jr., 53, Galt, CA
  • Michael John Powell a/k/a “Red”, 38, Duncan, S.C.
  • Traci Duncan Smiley, 46, Monroe, GA

Source: S.C. Attorney General’s Office