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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 14, 2005

DEA Busts Georgia's First Meth "Super-Lab"

FEB 14- Sherri Strange, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, and David Nahmias, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, announced an update on the February 9, 2005, raid of a “super-lab” located in Cobb County that was manufacturing substantial quantities of methamphetamine and reducing this product into crystal methamphetamine, or “ice.” The “super-lab,” located in a residential neighborhood in Smyrna, is the first meth “super-lab” discovered in Georgia and one of only a handful ever discovered in the Eastern United States.

In a news conference this afternoon, the DEA announced that federal, state, and local agents executed a search warrant last week at a house located at 200 Church Road, Smyrna, Georgia. Inside the house, the agents found equipment and supplies for making methamphetamine in the basement. Through further investigation after the search, investigating agents determined the home functioned as a large-scale “super-lab,” which derives its name from its ability to manufacture large quantities of methamphetamine. This "super lab" also was designed to convert the methamphetamine into the more pure, and addictive, “ice” methamphetamine. Such large scale labs typically are found only in California and Mexico.

Arrested by the DEA were: IGNACIO CORTES-VALENCIA, 24, an illegal alien originally from Michoacan, Mexico; GUSTAVO LARA-MURILLO, 31, an illegal alien originally from Colima, Mexico; and RAMON OSEGUERA-ALANIS, 34, an illegal alien originally from Michoacan, Mexico. The defendants were charged with the possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. These defendants made their initial appearance before a federal magistrate on February 10, and their detention hearing before United States Magistrate Alan Baverman is scheduled for tomorrow.

According to the criminal complaint filed in the case, sources and surveillance developed information that indicated that the residence was being used in a manner consistent with that of a clandestine methamphetamine laboratory. In January, agents from the Marietta/Cobb/Smyrna (MCS) Task Force received information that individuals associated with this investigation had purchased large amounts of Drano and muriatic acid on three separate occasions at the ACE Hardware store in Smyrna, Georgia. Drano and muriatic acid are common ingredients used in clandestine laboratories to manufacture methamphetamine. The agents also learned that strong chemical smells came from the house.

The complaint alleges that agents began watching the house on February 9 and saw two males exiting the rear of the residence and pouring a liquid from what appeared to be a trash can into the yard. Agents stopped the two men as they left the lab and found about one pound of “ice” methamphetamine in their car.

In a search of the house, agents seized in excess of 10 pounds of suspected crystallized (“ice”) methamphetamine, 39 pounds of methamphetamine, and several 30 to 55 gallon containers that contained liquid substances suspected to be methamphetamine in various stages of processing. Containers of methamphetamine of that size are capable of yielding approximately 10 to 15 pounds of finished crystallized (“ice”) methamphetamine. Agents found two Air Purifying Respirators (APR) and other hazardous material handling equipment. Additionally, agents found 24 trash bags full of empty packages of psuedoephedrine, a common ingredient in the manufacture of meth. Each package had contained 100 pills for a collective total of over 240,000 pills.

In a news conference less than two weeks ago, United States Attorney David Nahmias and DEA Special Agent In Charge Sherri Strange warned that meth and ice are an increasing threat to our community and a priority of federal law enforcement. “Ice” is a particularly potent form of methamphetamine, similar to the relationship “crack” has to cocaine, as it is highly addictive and often sold and marketed as the drug’s most powerful form.

Special Agent In Charge Sherri Strange said, “We have witnessed a rapid evolution of methamphetamine trafficking in the state of Georgia. In just a few years, Georgia has progressed from a spiked increase of ounce-producing "Mom and Pop" clandestine labs, to the importation of hundred pound quantities of Mexican methamphetamine and ice, to the mass production of meth and ice in "super-labs" in our own suburban neighborhoods. "Super-labs" capable of producing 10 pounds or more per "cook," per day, are virtually unheard of on the East Coast. But drug trafficking like any business operates on a supply and demand basis. As long as the market and demand exist, someone will always be willing to satisfy the need. The DEA and our state and local partners are committed to utilizing every resource available to dismantle these organizations poisoning our communities. However, the danger of methamphetamine and ice cannot be emphasized enough: danger to the environment, the public, the users and their families, especially their children. Ice is crack times ten. We must educate the public, the parents, and our youth about methamphetamine and ice and reduce the user population.”

This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the DEA, the MCS (Marietta, Cobb, Smyrna) Task Force, the Atlanta Police Department, the Roswell Police Department, the City of Clarkston Police Department, and the Georgia Department of Pardons and Parole. Assistant United States Attorneys John Horn and Richard Rice are prosecuting the case outlined in today’s news conference.

Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

For further information please contact DEA Group Supervisor Ruth Porter-Whipple at 404-893-7128.

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