After a five-month investigation called “Operation Tighten Up,” the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office arrested 15 people on Friday, including leader Larry “Lil Man” Fricks of Gainesville, in a $3.5 million methamphetamine trafficking group that expanded over Hall, Jackson and Banks counties.
“This investigation indicates that the Fricks’ drug trafficking organization is responsible in five short months for the distribution of more than 100 kilograms of methamphetamine with a street value of $3.5 million,” said Mitchell Posey, Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Special Agent in Charge.
Authorities seized 9 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, an ounce of marijuana, firearms, vehicles and $13,000 in cash. The estimated street value of the seized drugs is $155,000
Posey said the charges would involve the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act for the organization that has been active in this area for many years.
The sheriff’s offices for Hall, Banks, Jackson and Barrow counties as well as the Commerce Police Department assisted in the investigation for the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office.
The people arrested include Michael Douglas Gribble, 42, of Commerce; Stephanie Mae Pritchett, 38, of Winder; Chelsea Mangum Fricks, 28, of Gainesville; Brandon Dwight Wood, 37, of Maysville; Dwayne Eldon Fricks, 52, of Maysville; James Christopher Hood, 34, of Gainesville; Walter Cecil Whitehead IV, 45, of Braselton; Jared Cody Eller, 26, of Cleveland; Timothy “Freebird” Freeman, 59, of Gainesville; Matthew Lee Gerrin, 31, of Gillsville; Marty “Go Hard” Thomas, 36, who was listed at Hancock State Prison; Gary “Red” Loyd Brown, 56, of Dahlonega; and William Dale Gray, 47, of Commerce.
Dwayne Fricks is Larry Fricks’ father, and Chelsea Fricks is married to Larry Fricks.
The Hall County SWAT team searched Larry Fricks’ residence, and other Hall County authorities search Freeman’s residence and another Braselton residence.
Other search warrants were executed in Commerce, Winder, Maysville, Cleveland, Gillsville and Dahlonega.
All those arrested were transported to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities did not capture Rickie Nation, 59, of Maysville. Anyone with information on Nation’s location is asked to call local authorities.