Investigators seize meth valued at $44.6 million

 

NORCROSS, Ga. --- Investigators have seized hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $44.6 million in suburban Atlanta, in one of the biggest meth seizures in the country, authorities said Tuesday.

Investigators said the raid was conducted Monday at a house in Norcross, just north of Atlanta, after authorities were told a large amount of meth was being produced there. They reported finding 150 pounds of crystal methamphetamine ready for sale and 200 gallons of liquid methamphetamine oil in a large drug lab.

"This would feed hundreds and hundreds of addicts and destroy who knows how many lives, countless lives," said Rodney Benson, of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's 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 operation, but they have not determined what group was responsible.

Investigators said they arrested Jose Galvez-Vela, 33, of Weslaco, Texas, and charged him with trafficking in meth, and are seeking other suspects.

The discovery underscored a growing trend of Mexican drug trafficking organizations smuggling meth in liquid form across the border with the U.S. to be converted into a crystal form for sale, Benson said. The liquid can be converted to crystal form within 48 hours.

Investigators in hazardous-materials suits removed the meth and highly flammable chemicals from the house. It appeared that he house was used strictly for making 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. Benson said the lab's location was typical of Mexican drug organizations known to operate sophisticated networks from nondescript houses in suburban Atlanta for distribution along the East Coast.