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.