East Coast’s Largest Methamphetamine Bust

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Atlanta—In what is being heralded as the largest crystal methamphetamine seizure to ever take place in the Eastern United States, authorities took approximately 351 pounds of the drug from two suburban Atlanta homes.

The operation to seize the meth began on Sunday and lasted into Monday, although the investigation into the presence of drugs at these locations has been ongoing for several months. Federal Drug Enforcement Agency officials also seized a kilogram of cocaine, an undetermined amount of cash, and a quantity of chemicals and equipment used in the methamphetamine’s manufacture.

Four Mexican nationals were arrested in the raid: Fernando Chavez, 28; Luis Naranjo, 23; Gerardo Antonio Urena, 35, and Jose Raphael Lopez, 34. All are living in Duluth, the Atlanta suburb where the two houses were located, and currently face state drug trafficking charges.

Atlanta, especially suburban Gwinnett County, has become a hub for Mexican drug trafficking and distribution. Drugs components and equipment are brought to the area to be processed and repackaged for distribution along the Eastern seaboard.

Rodney Benson, head of the Atlanta field office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said that the situation they found is typical of Mexican drug trafficking organizations. “They want to blend in to communities in nondescript locations to conduct their business.”

He said that the wholesale value of the meth that was seized would be about $6 million, and that it would have been worth tens of millions of dollars had it been distributed and sold on the street.

Benson called the two houses that authorities raided “classic stash houses” wherein there was little or no furnishings, and the bags of drugs were hidden within the houses’ walls. Several days before the raid, a drug-related shooting on the same street left one person dead and three people injured. State officials said that there is no evidence linking the shooting to the drug seizure.

Law enforcement authorities have not yet been able to link the drugs or drug traffickers in this incident to any specific Mexican drug cartels, but the investigation is ongoing.

 

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