GBI: Methamphetamine deaths up 40 percent from 2016 to 2017

343 people died of methamphetamine related deaths in 2017 in Georgia (Credit:WPDE)

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has released a report showing that methamphetamine deaths are up 40 percent from 2016 (243 deaths) to 2017 (343 deaths).

“It is all over the state,” said GBI Spokesperson Nelly Miles.

Law enforcement said Mexican drug cartels are importing the drug to what they call the hub of the entire South East, specifically, Atlanta.

Gene Harley is the Assistant Deputy Director of the Chatham Narcotics Unit.

“Several people who are deemed the main distributors for this area are going to the Metro Atlanta area where they are purchasing one pound or more of crystal methamphetamine and bringing it back here sometime almost on a weekly occurrence,” said Harley.

Investigators say it’s not only the drug trafficking and dependence that’s on their radar.

“A lot of the violent crime that we see in our state you will see that there is a nexus to methamphetamine,” said Miles.

Harley says his unit has had success in what he calls long term investigations into the meth distribution.

“The hope is to try to identify the key members of the organization and ultimately dismantle that organization,” he said.

He said one of the biggest culprits here locally is a white supremacist gang called the Ghost Face Gangsters who partner with Mexican cartel members, often from behind bars while serving time in Georgia prisons.

“We have been very successful on identifying all these people and ultimately bringing them to justice here in Chatham County,” said Harley.

Two most recent international arrests were a collective effort involving the U.S. Marshals and CNT officers.

Marcus Scott was arrested in Kingston, Jamaica. He was wanted for distributing cocaine and ecstasy as well as in possession of stolen weapons.

Just last Friday, CNT nabbed Ukrainian native Anton Barimayev in Toronto, Canada. Barimeyev was wanted for manufacturing large amounts of methamphetamine and agents also were able to build a case after making numerous buys from Barimeyev since 2012.

CNT, U.S. Marshals and the Chatham County District Attorney’s Office all played a major role in bringing these two to justice.