Gwinnett County

Drone repair shop owner arrested, accused of helping gangs smuggle contraband into jails

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Agents have uncovered what they believe to be the largest criminal operation of its kind in Georgia history that brought ecstasy, meth, guns, cell phones and more into Georgia prisons.

A Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) special agent says “Operation Skyhawk” culminated Thursday with raids targeting one of many networks at the center of the investigation.

Those networks include one involving a business called Thunder Drones in Gwinnett County and drone drops of drugs, cellphones, and more into Georgia prisons.

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Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Mark Winne was at Thunder Drones when employees were arrested in connection with “Operation Skyhawk.”

GDC Commissioner Tyrone Oliver says corrections agents thundered into Thunder Drones armed with a search warrant and arrest warrants for Robert Schwartz involving drone drops of contraband into Georgia prisons.

He says they seized more than 50 drones in two simultaneous raids, and if the allegations prove true in court, he anticipates Schwartz will be dropped into prison for an extended stay.

“This will be the largest gang RICO case in the history of the state of Georgia and it originated by the men and women here at the Georgia Department of Corrections,” Oliver said.

Oliver says prosecutors are working with GDC special agents to ask grand juries across the state to return RICO and gang indictments against Schwartz and many others.

“If you face gang and/or RICO charges, what’s your response?” Winne asked as agents took him away in handcuffs.

“All I do is repair drones. I’ve been doing, I’ve been repairing radio-controlled things for 50 years. I don’t know what they’re even here for,” Schwartz replied.

“Have you broken the law?” Winne asked. “No sir,” Schwartz replied.

GDC Special Agent Gregg Phillips says the investigation which started in November 2022 led to the recovery of lots of drugs, including 51 pounds of what appeared to be ecstasy.

But while they are not lab-tested yet, Phillips says he believes many of the pills contained deadly fentanyl.

He says takedowns outside prisons during the investigation “Operation Skyhawk” yielded 22 guns he believes were intended for security for the drone operations and 273 cellphones, recovered before they made it into prisons.


“We stopped roughly 170 prison drops during the course of the investigation,” Phillips said. “We’ve arrested 146 individuals associated with contraband drops. Out of those, eight of them are correctional officers, or were.”

Oliver said Thunder Drones employee Nelda Alber was also arrested on charges related to drone drops of contraband and inmate communications.

The second raid agents made was on Schwartz’s home.

“We did electronic interceptions on Mr. Robert Schwartz, his business here Thunder Drones, and inmates and associates of inmates,” Phillips said.

GDC Office of Professional Standards Director Matt Wolfe said that while they were there, two men pulled into Thunder Drones parking lot and then tried to leave.

A search of their car turned up a stolen gun and one person was arrested.

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