Sheriff’s Office narcotics operation raises questions: Part II


6.22 Wendell Beam

Upon receipt of information from a confidential source pertaining to a November 2012 operation conducted by the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations Unit, The GRIP began compiling information utilizing public records available through Georgia’s Open Records Act.

In response to The GRIP’s initial Open Records request seeking information on this operation, the Sheriff’s Office stated that Special Operations agents had received information regarding illegal drugs from a confidential informant (CI) who was willing to assist and allowed agents to install a GPS tracker installed on his vehicle. The response also alleged the CI suggested disabling a tail light on his vehicle to provide agents with probable cause to conduct a later traffic stop, but when agents told him that wouldn’t be necessary, the CI disabled his own tail light.

Because the CI was uncertain when he would make contact with the suspect, it was agreed that he would contact agents when a meeting was scheduled so they could begin monitoring his vehicle’s activities. Furthermore, the Sheriff’s Office alleged that meeting was never scheduled and the GPS tracker was never activated and was removed after only a few days.

However, among the information provided to The GRIP was a 112-page report that contradicts the Sheriff’s Office assertion the tracker was never activated as it provides a detailed summary of the vehicle’s movements from Nov. 8-13, 2012.

Through its investigation, The GRIP established the GPS tracker was placed on the vehicle immediately following a traffic stop conducted by Special Operations Sgt. John Corley.

Corley’s report makes no mention of a tracker being placed on the vehicle in question, but the Sheriff’s Office has confirmed the device was not used in any other investigation during November 2012, which establishes Corley as the case agent in the operation in question.

Prior to beginning this series of articles, The GRIP made numerous attempts to obtain clarification from Sheriff Wendell Beam. In addition to multiple phone calls to Beam’s office and cell phone, as well as attempts to contact him by text message and email, The GRIP on Nov. 9 emailed to Beam a list of questions pertaining to this operation. Beam was also advised this newspaper is in possession of the tracker report that established the tracker was activated.

Beam has never responded to any of those numerous attempts to clarify the questions raised by his initial Nov. 6 Open Records response.

More than three weeks later, though, Beam did issue a press release admitting the tracker was activated when it was installed on the vehicle in question. In that Dec. 4 press release, Beam also repeatedly stated that while it was functioning, the tracker was never monitored.

Although Beam now acknowledges that his office’s initial Open Records response was inaccurate, he continues to maintain the tracker was not monitored.

Despite that denial, the report indicates the tracker was issuing alerts.

During the five days the device was on the vehicle, eight separate and specific alerts were generated, and The GRIP has learned that Special Operations agents would have received those alerts in the form of text messages to their cell phones or via email.

The first alert issued by the tracker occurred at 7:52 p.m., less than 20 minutes after it was activated and while it was still in the same location where Special Operations placed it on the vehicle.

Furthermore, additional information from the tracker report raises questions of whether the GPS system was remotely manipulated while it was active on the vehicle.

It repeatedly indicates the device did not maintain a standard interval when updating the vehicle’s location. While the tracker at times refreshed with exacting precision – down to the correct second with intervals ranging from five seconds to one minute – there was an extremely wide disparity over the course of the five-day period, at times ranging from only one second to many minutes.

The report, which provides extremely detailed information regarding activities including the date, precise time to the second, latitude and longitude, address, city, state, direction of travel and speed, indicates the vehicle left Spalding County on more than one occasion with no alert generated.

On later dates, though, when the vehicle left Spalding County, the tracker generated a specific alert cited as a geofence, which is a virtual boundary used to mark a geographic area.

That the tracker did not begin to generate these geofence alerts until after it had left Spalding County on more than one occasion, it raises the question of whether the geofence parameters were established after the tracker was activated.

One example was noted Nov. 11, 2012, when at 5:19 p.m., the vehicle was documented entering Fayette County on Highway 92. While no alert was then generated, the tracker did document the vehicle re-entering Spalding County on the same road at 6:02 p.m.. Less than 45 minutes later, a geofence was active in the system and an alert was issued to agents signaling it had crossed back over into Spalding County.

After more than four weeks of attempting all means possible to obtain answers to the questions raised by the tracker report and other information, neither Sheriff Wendell Beam nor Capt. Gilles Lalumiere have responded.

Publisher’s note – The Dec. 21 edition of The GRIP will detail specifically how Sgt. John Corley initiated this GPS tracker operation and will respond to additional claims made by the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office in response to The GRIP’s research and this series of articles.



  1. GPS trackers record and store routes that have been covered, all you have to do is go into the device setting to display all the routes taken. Obtain the tracker, or is it somehow, for some reasone unavailable.

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