It’s one of those premises that catch your attention — running a multi-state methamphetamine conspiracy, with the cooperation of several different gangs, while serving a life sentence in state prison. That was the main allegation against Daniel Roger Alo, and when everything was said and done, 15 co-conspirators were convicted and he received a prison sentence of 29 years tacked to his state time.

Thursday, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force within the Southern District of Georgia’s U.S. Attorney’s Office presented the national award for “Overcoming Technology Obstacles” to 10 people involved in the investigation and prosecution of the case, called Operation Cellmate. The operation earlier received recognition as the 2017 Georgia Bureau of Investigation case of the year.

Though Alo denied using the contraband mobile phones, people flew drones carrying burner phones over the prison to co-conspirators. A news release from the USAO also states they used compromised prison guards to smuggle items into the prison.

“We are honored that our assistant U.S. attorneys are among the recipients of this award, and even more honored at the recognition of the law enforcement officers and prosecutors who coordinate their efforts to drive criminals out of our communities,” U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine said in a statement. “Being chosen for this prestigious award from among the 94 U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the country is truly evidence that the Southern District of Georgia is punching above its weight class.”

The effort involved two cases that made their way through the U.S. Courthouse in Brunswick — one, the Alo case, included him and 15 other defendants. An indictment covering five people — including Georgia Lottery winner Ronnie Music Jr. — was also part of the effort. In courtroom testimony, investigators said Music invested part of his $3 million winnings into the endeavor and served as the “banker” of the conspiracy.

In one Brunswick raid, law enforcement seized 10.9 pounds of meth, a number of firearms and more than $600,000 cash.

Those recognized included assistant U.S. attorneys Greg Gilluly, Tania Groover and Theodore Hertzberg; Special Agent Thomas Crawford III, Special Agent James Turner, Forensic Auditor Christa Morgan and Forensic Investigator Richard Ruka, all with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; GBI Special Agent Bobby Banks; special agents Robert Livingston and Christopher Akins with the Drug Enforcement Administration; and U.S. Marshals Task Force Officer Keith Lank, representing the state Department of Corrections.

“Although this investigation occurred before my time as police chief for Glynn County, I am still proud of past employees who dedicated their lives to making Glynn County a safer community,” Glynn County Police Chief John Powell said in a statement. “Special Agent Christopher Atkins worked for the Glynn County Police Department for five years, a large part of which he spent investigating illegal narcotics.

“His involvement with Operation Cellmate is just one testimony of his passion. Special Agent Atkins left the department in August of 2016 to continue his dedication to combating illegal narcotics with the (DEA). I am thankful for the cooperation which existed between the department and our federal counterparts back in 2015 and 2016, and we strive to continue and improve upon these partnerships.”

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