“Prison Empire” represents the largest drug conspiracy investigation ever in the State of South Carolina containing 487 charges, 297 counts, and 100 defendants.

In June of 2018, a multiagency investigation that centered around the use of contraband cellphones by inmates in the South Carolina Department of Corrections to operate an illegal drug empire, was initiated.   The investigation, known as “Prison Empire”, was venued in Pickens County for prosecution purposes and culminated in the indictment of 53 people on 191 criminal charges due to their participation in having trafficked over 500 kilograms of methamphetamine and large sums of other illicit narcotics with an estimated street value of over twenty million dollars.  In November of 2019, Sheriff Clark and the Attorney General’s Office revealed the investigation to the public through a press conference that was held at the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office.  Since then, the investigation into this large scale criminal drug conspiracy has continued and we are pleased to announce the second phase of “Prison Empire”. 

On March 1st, 2021, an additional 47 defendants and 296 charges were unsealed.  The second phase of the investigation also centered around inmates housed in the South Carolina Department of Corrections using contraband cellular telephones to coordinate large scale drug trafficking with people on the outside.  After the indictments were unsealed, the defendants were taken into custody and transported to the Pickens County Detention Center to await bond hearings.  To date, “Prison Empire” represents the largest drug conspiracy investigation ever in the State of South Carolina containing 487 charges, 297 counts, and 100 defendants.   

To clarify, this investigation DID NOT involve inmates who were housed in the Pickens County Detention Center, as some have suggested.  Instead, the basis of the investigation revolved around inmates housed in various prisons maintained by the South Carolina Department of Corrections.  The Special Operations Unit of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, working in conjunction with their state and local partners, provided the investigative resources necessary to bring these charges forward against the accused offenders. The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank all the Agencies involved with long and very complicated investigation. Agencies involved in this investigation are the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, the Greenville County Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Enforcement Unit, the  Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, the Edgefield County Sheriff’s Office, the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office, the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office, the Easley Police Department, the South Carolina Department of Corrections’ Division of Police Services, and the State Grand Jury Division of the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office.

See link the Attorney General’s press release below. 

“Pickens County Sheriff’s Office Investigates Collision Involving Anderson County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Vehicle”

Late last night the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office was called to the scene of an accident involving an Anderson County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicle.  The accident occurred on Midway Road in Williamston, South Carolina. 

The investigation revealed that an Anderson County Deputy was responding to a call for service with his emergency equipment activated.  As the Deputy attempted to pass another vehicle and move back into his lane of travel, he lost control of his vehicle causing a collision with a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction.

The driver of the other vehicle was treated and released at the hospital.  The Deputy was not injured in the crash.  Both vehicles suffered significant damage.

The Deputy was found to have contributed to the accident.

No further information at this time.


Agents of the S.C. Law Enforcement Division yesterday arrested a Pickens County man who on November 2, 2020 was in possession of an explosive that had been configured to cause damage, injury or death.
David Scott Halsey, 58, was charged with Possess, Manufacture, Transport Destructive Device Or Explosive For Damage, Injury Or Death.
SLED, Easley Police Department and Pickens County Sheriff’s Office are working in conjunction with a federal investigation.
Halsey was booked at the Pickens County Detention Center.
The case will be prosecuted by the 13th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.

UPDATE: “Murder Suspect Extradited Back to South Carolina”

On Thursday, November 5, 2020, Deputies from the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office extradited the 29 year old male that had been taken into custody in Johnson County, Tennessee following the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting death of Dustin Lee Smith.

David Michael Watkins (29 YOA) was booked into the Pickens County Detention Center on the following charges:


2020A3910101349 – Murder

2020A3910101353 – Possession of Weapon During a Violent Crime

2020A3910101354 – Grand Larceny

“Pickens County Sheriff’s Office Announces Arrest in Fatal Shooting”


A 29 year old male has been taken into custody following the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting death of Dustin Lee Smith. Mr. Smith was found deceased on the shoulder of Ponderosa Drive, Six Mile, early Sunday morning.

A team of detectives have worked around the clock since the deceased was first discovered the morning of Sunday, November 1, 2020.

The suspect was identified during the investigation which led detectives to Johnson County, Tennessee, where the suspect was taken into custody without incident.

This investigation is still on-going as Sheriff’s detectives are investigating additional leads and information to determine if there are other potential co-defendant(s) that may have played a role before and/or after Mr. Smith’s death.

Sheriff Rick Clark stated…..

“Please join with us as we pray for Mr. Smith’s family and friends as they attempt to understand and cope with this tragic and senseless loss of life. Our hearts go out to each and every one of them as we remain focused on the mission at hand; which is to bring the person or persons responsible for his death to justice. I would also like to extend our sincere thanks to the excellent law enforcement officers from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation who assisted us during this investigation. The success of this investigation would not have been possible without them”.

David Michael Watkins (29 YOA) taken into custody today in Johnson County, Tennessee, where he awaits extradition back to South Carolina. He will be booked on the following charge:

  • Charge: Murder
  • Warrant #: 2020A3910101349
  • Bond: TBD
  • Date of Arrest: 11/02/2020

DEA National Prescription Pill Take Back Day

Pickens County Sheriff’s Office (SC)

October 26 at 7:54 AM · 

On Saturday, October 24, 2020, Agents with Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, Easley Police Department, and Clemson Police Department collected medications from the public at three locations within Pickens County. The agencies were participating in the DEA National Prescription Pill Take Back Day. The nationwide event was designed to remove unused prescription medications from public access, to help prevent drug addiction and overdose deaths. Often times, these medications are abused by family and friends of the person originally prescribed the medications. The program offers a safe way to dispose of unused pills.
Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, Easley Police Department, and Clemson Police Department collect pills year round at their agency office, and actively participate in this program. Behavioral Health Services of Pickens in particular the Stepping it up Coalition, also assists with this national event. This year, all participants were able to collect three hundred ninety-five (395) pounds of medication. Thanks for everyone’s participation in reducing the prescription drug problem in our community.

“Scam Alert”

It has come to our attention that this scam is very prevalent in the City of Easley and surrounding areas today! PLEASE DO NOT BE DECEIVED BY THIS SCAM!

SCAM ALERT – In the recent days, the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office has received numerous calls from citizens regarding a scam where fraudsters have been impersonating deputies with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office to obtain pre-paid gift cards.  Victims reported having received phone calls from telephone number (864) 397-7026 and that the subject on the other end of the telephone identified himself as a deputy with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office before informing the victim that they had an outstanding warrant for missing jury duty.   According to those who have notified PCSO of the incident, the subject impersonating a deputy informed them that they could resolve the issue by making a payment via pre-paid gift cards (ie: iTunes gift cards, Greendot cards, prepaid Visa cards, etc.).  This is a SCAM!   

  • No representative of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office will EVER call any citizen and request that they submit a payment via telephone, this is not a practice of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and if you receive such a phone call it is an immediate sign that the phone call is a scam being facilitated by a fraudster.
  • The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office DOES NOT take payment in lieu of serving an arrest warrant.  If a warrant has been issued, there is only two ways to resolve warrant: (1) for the warrant to be served or (2) for a judge to recall the warrant. 
  • If a subject asks you to submit a payment via a non-traditional method, such as an iTunes gift card or Greendot card, this is generally a red flag you are dealing with a scam.  Fraudsters typically choose these unconventional payment methods method because they are more difficult to track.  Therefore, be weary of anyone who requests that you submit a payment through using those methods. 
  • Fraudsters will frequently keep you on the telephone to prevent you from calling the appropriate authorities.  If you have concerns that the person you may be dealing with may be legitimate, hang-up the telephone and look-up the phone number of the agency the subject claimed they represented.  DO NOT rely upon the number they provide you.  Instead, find the number for the agency yourself so to ensure that you are calling the proper agency and not the telephone number of the fraudster.   Upon calling the agency, be sure to ask to speak with a deputy about the phone call so that they can properly advise you and look into the matter on your behalf. 

“Pickens County Sheriff’s Office to Host Press Conference Concerning Death Investigation in Liberty”


The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office along with the Liberty Police Department will co-host a press conference at 1:00 pm, this afternoon, April 14, 2020, at the Law Enforcement Center in Pickens to release some details of a homicide investigation in Liberty.   

Sheriff Rick Clark along with Police Chief Adam Gilstrap will discuss this investigation and release the identity of one person charged in connection with this investigation.  

The press conference will be held on the second floor of the Law Enforcement Center, 216 C. David Stone Road, Pickens, South Carolina 29671.


“Thank You, 911 Dispatchers!”

This week is Telecommunicators Appreciation Week. Emergency (911) dispatchers are the first people you talk to when you call with a crisis. Even though dispatchers can’t see what’s happening, they are the eyes and ears of emergency responders—our guiding angels who ensure that the right responders get to an emergency as fast as possible, and who keep responders safe as they help people in crisis.

A Tribute to Dispatchers

Someone once asked me if I thought that answering telephones for a living was a profession. I said, “Its more than profession, it’s a calling.” And so is dispatching.

I have found in my law enforcement career that dispatchers are the unsung heroes of Sheriff’s Office. They miss the excitement of riding in a patrol car with lights flashing and sirens wailing. They can only hear of the bright orange flames leaping from a burning building. They do not get to see the joy on the face of worried parents as they see their child begin breathing on its own, after it has been given CPR.

Dispatchers sit in darkened rooms looking at computer screens and talking to voices from faces they never see. It’s like reading a lot of books, but only half of each one. Dispatchers connect the anxious conversations of terrified victims, angry informants, suicidal citizens, and sometimes grouchy officers.

They are the calming influence of all of them—the quiet, competent voices in the night that provide the pillars for the bridges of sanity and safety. They are expected to gather information from highly agitated people who can’t remember where they live, what their name is, or what they just saw. And then, they are to calmly provide all that information to the officers, firefighters, or paramedics without error the first time and every time.

Dispatchers are expected to be able to do five things at once—and do them well. While questioning a frantic caller, they must type the information into a computer, tip off another dispatcher, put another caller on hold, and listen to an officer run a license plate .. To miss the plate numbers is to raise the officer’s ire; to miss the caller’s information may be to endanger the same officer’s life. But, the officer will never understand that.

Dispatchers have two constant companions, other dispatchers and stress. They depend on one, and try to ignore the other. They are chastened by upset callers, taken for granted by the public, and criticized by the officers. The rewards they get are inexpensive and infrequent, except for the satisfaction they feel at the end of a shift, having done what they were expected to do. They are people who were selected in a hiring process to do an impossible job. They are as different as snowflakes, but they have one thing in common. They care about people and they enjoy being the lifeline of society—that steady voice in a storm, the one who knows how to handle every emergency and does it with style and grace; and, uncompromised competence.

Dispatchers play many roles: therapist, doctor, lawyer, teacher, weatherman, guidance counselor, psychologist, priest, secretary, supervisor, mediator, and reporter. And few people must jump through the emotional hoops on the trip through the joy of one caller’s birthday party, to the fear of another caller’s burglary in progress, to the anger of a neighbor blocked in their drive, and back to the birthday caller all in a two-minute time frame. The emotional rollercoaster rolls to a stop after a 12 -hour shift, and they are expected to walk out to their car with steady feet and no queasiness in their stomach—because they are dispatchers.

If they hold it in, they are too closed. If they talk about it, they are a whiner. If it bothers them, it adds more stress. If it doesn’t, they question themselves, wondering why. Dispatchers are expected to have:

the compassion of Mother Theresa

the wisdom of Solomon

the interviewing skills of Oprah Winfrey

the gentleness of Florence Nightingale

the patience of Job the voice of Barbara Streisand

the knowledge of Einstein

the answers of Ann Landers

the humor of David Letterman

the investigative skills of Sgt. Joe Friday

the looks of Melanie Griffith or Don Johnson

the faith of Billy Graham

and the endurance of the Energizer Bunny

It is a unique and talented person who can do this job and do it well. And, it is fitting and proper that we take a few minutes or hours this week to honor them for the job that each of them does. That recognition is overdue and it is insufficient. But, it is sincere. It takes a special person with unique a unique skillset .We admire you, dispatcher, and we all thank you for the thankless job you do. You are heroes, and I am proud to work with you.