Owner of drone repair shop arrested on charges of aiding gangs in smuggling contraband into jails

Agents in Georgia have recently discovered what they suspect to be the most extensive criminal operation ever recorded in the state’s history. This operation managed to prevent the entry of various illicit items, including ecstasy, methamphetamine, firearms, and cell phones, into Georgia prisons.

According to a special agent from the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC), a major operation called “Operation Skyhawk” reached its climax on Thursday with a series of raids aimed at dismantling one of the key networks under investigation.

In Gwinnett County, one of the networks involved in illegal activities is Thunder Drones. This business is responsible for carrying out drone drops of various contraband items, such as drugs and cellphones, into prisons located in Georgia.

Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Mark Winne witnessed the arrest of Thunder Drones employees as part of “Operation Skyhawk.”

The Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections, Tyrone Oliver, stated that corrections agents entered Thunder Drones with full force. They were armed with a search warrant and arrest warrants for Robert Schwartz. These warrants were issued due to his involvement in using drones to drop contraband into prisons in Georgia.

According to the official, they have confiscated over 50 drones in two separate raids. If these allegations are proven true in court, he expects Schwartz to be sentenced to a lengthy prison term.

Oliver declared that the Georgia Department of Corrections had initiated the largest gang RICO case in the state’s history. He acknowledged the efforts of the department’s dedicated men and women in bringing forth this significant case.

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According to Oliver, prosecutors are collaborating with GDC special agents to request RICO and gang indictments against Schwartz and several other individuals from grand juries across the state.

As they placed handcuffs on Winne and led him away, the agents asked, “What will be your response if you are faced with gang and/or RICO charges?”

Schwartz, a seasoned drone repair expert, has been honing his craft for five decades. With a passion for fixing radio-controlled devices, he finds himself perplexed by the purpose of these modern marvels. “All I do is repair drones. I’ve been doing it for 50 years. I don’t even know why they exist,” Schwartz shared.

“Did you break the law?” Winne inquired. “No, sir,” Schwartz replied.

GDC Special Agent Gregg Phillips spearheaded an investigation that commenced in November 2022, resulting in the successful recovery of a substantial amount of drugs. Notably, the operation yielded approximately 51 pounds of a substance believed to be ecstasy.

According to Phillips, although they have not been tested in a lab yet, he is confident that a significant number of the pills contain lethal fentanyl.

During the investigation “Operation Skyhawk,” law enforcement officials conducted takedowns outside prisons, resulting in the seizure of 22 guns that were likely intended for security purposes in drone operations. Additionally, they recovered 273 cellphones that were intercepted before they could be smuggled into prisons.

Phillips stated that they had put an end to about 170 prison drops throughout their investigation. Additionally, they had managed to apprehend a total of 146 individuals who were involved in contraband drops, including eight correctional officers.

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Nelda Alber, an employee at Thunder Drones, was arrested by Oliver on charges pertaining to the drone drops of contraband and inmate communications.

Agents conducted their second raid at Schwartz’s residence.

Phillips revealed that they conducted electronic interceptions on Mr. Robert Schwartz, his business Thunder Drones, as well as inmates and their associates.

According to Matt Wolfe, the Director of GDC Office of Professional Standards, two individuals arrived at Thunder Drones’ parking lot and later attempted to leave.

During the search of their vehicle, law enforcement discovered a stolen firearm, leading to the subsequent arrest of one individual.

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