News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 13, 2009
Contact: Chuvalo J. Truesdell
PIO/AFD
Number: 404-893-7124

Atlanta HIDTA Seizes Mexican Crystal Methamphetamine
Largest ICE Seizure Ever Recorded on East Coast

MAY 13 -- Atlanta, Georgia – Rodney G. Benson, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Atlanta Field Division (AFD) announces the culmination of a two month long investigation conducted by DEA Atlanta and the Atlanta High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA), which resulted in the largest seizure of methamphetamine in the Eastern United States. The Atlanta HIDTA and Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office targeted a Mexican drug trafficking organization based in Gwinnett County that utilized residences located at 4238 Buckingham Place and 2695 Cambridge Park Drive, Duluth, Georgia to store the methamphetamine.

SAC Benson of the DEA AFD commented on the seizure, “Mexican organized crime groups are responsible for the production and distribution of the vast majority of methamphetamine seized, as well as used in the United States. Methamphetamine is an insidious, addictive drug that consumes all who abuse it. The size of this seizure again shows metro Atlanta is a staging area for Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations and that the combined efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement can prevent this poison from reaching the streets of America.”

Danny Porter, Gwinnett County District Attorney stated, “This is a good example of the type of inter-agency effort that is going to be required to fight the types of organizations that are setting up shop in suburban neighborhoods all over metro Atlanta, including Gwinnett County. My office is proud to be partnered with the agencies involved in this investigation which had a direct impact in getting drugs off the street.”

Jack Killorin, Director of the Atlanta HIDTA stated, “The seizure of this enormous amount of methamphetamine only represents the tip of an iceberg. Here again we find a major international drug operation hidden in middle class suburb, brought to light by the collaboration and hard work of investigators and prosecutors from federal, state and local jurisdictions working as a team.

Chief Richard Pennington of the Police Department commented, "This seizure not only represents drugs bound for our community but to all of north Georgia and bordering states of Georgia. The Atlanta Police Department remains committed to working side by side with our local, state, and federal partners in this ongoing fight to rid our communities of drug related crimes. We will continue to build partnerships to improve our communities and ensure a better quality of life.”

From May 10 through May 11, 2009, members of the Atlanta HIDTA, assisted by the Gwinnett County Police Department, executed search warrants at the above-mentioned Duluth, GA. locations and seized approximately 351 pounds of crystallized methamphetamine and one kilogram of cocaine, the majority of which was secreted in the walls of the residences. The estimated wholesale value of the seized drugs is six million dollars. An undetermined amount of United States Currency was also seized.

In addition to the methamphetamine, volatile chemicals were located at the Buckingham Place location, which were used to convert the powdered methamphetamine to a much more addictive form of the drug, crystallized methamphetamine or ICE. Members of the AFD DEA Clandestine Laboratory Team responded to the scene to supervise the removal of these chemicals.

Four Mexican Nationals assigned to guard the stash houses, were arrested and are identified as follows:

Fernando CHAVEZ-Chavez, 28, 4238 Buckingham Place, Duluth, Georgia
Luis NARANJO-Leon, 23, 4238 Buckingham Place, Duluth, Georgia
Gerardo Antonio URENA-Esquivel, 35, 2695 Cambridge Park Drive, Duluth, Georgia
Jose Raphael LOPEZ-Jimenez, 34, 2695 Cambridge Park Drive, Duluth, Georgia
All four individuals are facing drug trafficking charges in Gwinnett County Court.

The Atlanta HIDTA is a multi-agency task force composed of federal, state, and local law enforcement officers. The primary mission is to target significant drug trafficking organizations operating in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area. The particular task force group responsible for this seizure is composed of agents and officers from the DEA, the Atlanta Police Department, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the Georgia State Patrol, the De Kalb County Police Department, the Fulton County Police Department, the East Point Police Department, the Jonesboro Police Department, the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, and the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office.

This investigation is being prosecuted by the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office.

DEA’s SAC Benson encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.justhinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.

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