NORCROSS , Ga. - Gwinnett County police seized nearly half a ton of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $44.6 million from a home in Norcross, one of the biggest meth seizures ever made in the United States.
Police raided a house off Beaver Ruin Road between Interstate 85 and Buford Highway late Monday after authorities got a report that a large amount of meth was being produced there.
Officers found 150 pounds of crystal methamphetamine ready for sale and 200 gallons of liquid methamphetamine oil in a large drug lab.
Gwinnett County police called in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and a fire department hazmats team because of the size of the drug lab.
"This would feed hundreds and hundreds of addicts and destroy who knows how many lives, countless lives," said Rodney Benson of the DEA field office in Atlanta.
No one was in the home at the time of the raid, police said.
Authorities said they suspect a Mexican-based drug trafficking organization in the drug-making operation, but added investigators have not determined what group was responsible.
Police arrested 33-year-old Jose Galvez-Vela of Weslaco, Texas, and charged him with trafficking in meth. Police didn't say exactly where he was arrested and didn't know if he had a lawyer. Authorities said they are seeking others following the raid in Norcross, in the Northern Atlanta suburb of Gwinnett County.
The discovery underscored a growing trend of Mexican drug trafficking organizations smuggling liquid meth into the United States to be converted into a crystal form for sale, Benson said. The liquid can be converted to crystal form within 48 hours, he said.
Investigators in hazmats suits cautiously removed the meth and flammable drug-making chemicals from the house Monday. It didn't appear that anyone was living in the house and that it was used strictly for manufacturing meth, police said.
The house was "really a powder keg, ready to blow at any time," Benson said. "Clearly removing that threat from that house is clearly making that neighborhood much safer today."
The house is set in a quiet, low- to middle-income subdivision, Gwinnett police Cpl. Edwin Ritter said.