Three T.R. men charged in Upstate drug trafficking operation

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson today announced the state Grand Jury has returned indictments against thirty-five people in connection with an Upstate marijuana and prescription drug trafficking operation.

The indictments allege that from 2009 to the present, multiple individuals in South Carolina and as far away as California conspired to transport and distribute thousands of pounds of marijuana and prescription drugs throughout Greenville, Pickens and Oconee Counties, with illegal activity also occurring in York, Anderson, Spartanburg, and Cherokee Counties.

Three of the individuals named in the indictments – 26-year-old Brian Preston Pace, 26-year-old James Michael Smith Jr. and 24-year-old Thomas Kendall Yearwood – are from Travelers Rest.

Pace and Smith were indicted on charges of trafficking marijuana, 100 - 2,000 lbs. Yearwood was indicted on one charge of trafficking in illegal drugs (Oxycodone) and two charges of distribution of a Schedule II substance (Oxycodone).

If convicted, the punishment for the trafficking of marijuana charge is 25 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. The punishment for the trafficking in illegal drugs charge is 25-40 years and a $200,000 fine, and the punishment for the distribution of Schedule II controlled substance is 0-15 years and/or a fine up to $25,000, according to the attorney general's office.

Law enforcement personnel and/or agents from the Travelers Rest Police Department, Greenville County Sheriff's Office, California Department of Justice, Santa Clara County (California) Special Enforcement Team, DEA Greenville, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, South Carolina Highway Patrol, South Carolina Department of Probation, Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, York County Drug Enforcement Unit, Greenville Police Department, Easley Police Department, Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, Seneca Police Department, South Carolina National Guard/ Counter Drug Unit, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), Butte County (California) Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Marshals Service and the Clemson Police Department participated in the investigation.

The cases will be prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Joshua R. Underwood and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Heather S. Weiss, according to Attorney General Wilson, who added that all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty in a court of law.

Wilson also said that 17 additional individuals were indicted on trafficking methamphetamine charges. Of the 52 total people indicted, all but three have been apprehended. According to Travelers Rest Police Chief Lance Crowe, Officer Ben Tice was involved in the round-up operation in Travelers Rest.