By Lynn Brezosky - San Antonio Express-News
Police in Gwinnett County, Ga., arrested a Rio Grande Valley man in one of the largest methamphetamine seizures on record — a load weighing 933 pounds and with an estimated street value of nearly $45 million.
As of midday Tuesday, Jose Galvez-Vela, 33, of Weslaco, Texas was the only person arrested after a raid of an apparently unoccupied house in Norcross, a suburban area northeast of Atlanta. Authorities said they are investigating more suspects.
Police raided the home on a tip that the drug was being produced there, said Cpl. Edwin Ritter, spokesman for the Gwinnett County police. They found about 800 pounds of liquid meth oil and 130 pounds of crystallized product, he said.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration was called in to assist in the removal of hazardous chemicals, including acetone, Ritter said. The cleanup started shortly after the raid Monday afternoon and continued into Tuesday morning.
Ritter said the investigation was just beginning.
Authorities told the Associated Press they suspect a Mexican-based drug-trafficking organization is involved in the drug-making operation, but added investigators have not determined what group was responsible.
The discovery underscored a growing trend of Mexican drug-trafficking organizations smuggling methamphetamine in liquid form across the U.S. border to be converted into a crystal form for sale, said Rodney Benson with DEA's field office in Atlanta. The liquid can be converted to crystal form within 48 hours, he added.
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.