Local and federal authorities have busted up a major Mexican trafficking ring they say distributed methamphetamine and other drugs throughout northeast Georgia.
Conspirators smuggled the drugs over the border to Atlanta then distributed in the city's metro area as well as in and around Athens, authorities said.
"This is a true Mexican drug trafficking organization that was involved in polydrug activity, but methamphetamine was the primary drug," said Athens-Clarke police Lt. Mike Hunsinger, commanding officer of the Northeast Georgia Drug Task Force.
"The organization is a major supplier of drugs in northeast Georgia," he said.
A federal grand jury on June 16 indicted 14 of the organization's members on conspiracy charges, and task force members arrested two men from Athens and another from Madison County on Thursday, police said.
The other 11 ring members already were in custody on state charges or detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents before the indictment that was filed in U.S. District Court in Athens.
All but three of the men were in the country illegally, Hunsinger said.
The drug task force commander expects more arrests in the weeks to come after a federal grand jury returns another round of indictments.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents started the investigation more than six months ago.
After federal agents handed off the probe to the regional drug task force in January, a confidential informant used DEA money to buy an ounce of crystal meth from 30-year-old Larry Shane David of Hull, Ga., according to documents.
He was arrested later in the day and agreed to cooperate with the investigation, according to documents.
"David identified his methamphetamine source as a Mexican national identified only as 'Amigo,' " who lived in Clarke County, a DEA agent said in an affidavit.
Drug agents searched the home in February, seizing meth, guns and other evidence, and arresting three illegal Mexican immigrants who lived there, Hunsinger said.
The investigation widened after drug agents realized the men were part of the wider trafficking ring, he said.
The only people named in the June 16 indictment who were in the country legally were David, who lived in Hull, 43-year-old Charles William Dubie of Tallassee Road, and Mario Castillo-Carrizalez, who held a green card and lived in Madison County.
Madison County sheriff's deputies joined with task force members to arrest Castillo-Carrizalez and another man, who was an illegal immigrant, on drug charges June 21, Hunsinger said.
Octavio Parra-Ramirez was not home when authorities searched his trailer off U.S. Highway 29 North, but officials with the state Department of Transportation led them to him in Augusta, Hunsinger said.
Authorities searched numerous places in metro Atlanta and northeast Georgia over the past two weeks and plan to search more, he said.
Participating agencies include the regional drug task force, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia State Patrol, Athens-Clarke and UGA police departments, the state probation and parole offices, the Georgia National Guard Counterdrug Task Force and the Madison and Oconee county sheriff's offices.