DRUG BUST: Atlanta DEA hits cartel for $6 million in drugs and cash

"This hurt."

That's what Robert Murphy, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, says about the multi-million-dollar haul agents pulled from the clutches of a Mexican drug cartel.

The seizure includes $3 million worth of cocaine, $1 million worth of crystal methamphetamine, $1 million worth of fentanyl-laced heroin, and nearly $1 million cash. Four men, preliminary identified as Juan Antonio Guzman-Rodriguez, Antonio Jefferson Guzman, Jose Salvador Herrera Guzman, and Jonathan Vazquez Bueno, now face drug trafficking charges.

This seizure will be felt by the cartel, says Murphy, and those suspects know it.

"This hurt 'em...I mean, you just took $5 million worth of drugs that somebody's gotta pay for, and a million dollars of cash that represents a million dollars' worth of drugs that made it, unfortunately, to the street," says Murphy. "So, $6 million hurt.

"There's going to be some pain felt and there's going to be some questions answered, and I think these guys are lucky--they're very happy to be locked up. I don't think they're disappointed about being locked up right now."

Surveillance of this particular operation has been underway since November 2017. The DEA got a tip and did "old-fashioned police work," says Murphy. He says cartels don't stick to boundaries, so inter-agency cooperation between jurisdictions helps nail the criminals.

"The drugs came in and were off-loaded at a tire shop down in the south Fulton area, and then the stash house was up in north Gwinnett," says Murphy. "That's a classic example of what we see on a routine basis here in the Atlanta area."

According to SAC Murphy, agents and officers received an anonymous tip about a drug transaction being conducted at a tire shop located on Metropolitan Parkway in Atlanta. Thursday, a man offloaded one of the boxes in a U-Haul into a Nissan truck, and the vehicles went their separate ways. A traffic stop in East Point revealed 250 pounds of crystal meth in the U-Haul. The Nissan was pulled over in Lawrenceville, and was carrying more than two dozen kilos of cocaine.

Agents found the taped-up packages of drugs interspersed among actual packages of Mexican cookies, so any cursory glance in the truck or into a case of the snacks would have looked as if the truck was actually hauling sweets.

In fact, three of the suspects had a box of the cookies open in the console, and were snacking on them.

Next, agents swarmed a house in Lawrenceville, which was the stash house. A false basement wall held a bogus circuit breaker box, and when agents removed the phony panel, a bedroom-sized room behind the wall contained a suitcase and duffel bag stuffed with cash, as well as more drugs--including a buried cooler holding packages of fentanyl-laced heroin. Drugs were also hidden inside several car batteries.

The stash house's neighborhood was described as quiet, diverse, and residential. SAC Murphy says the drug runners need that kind of infrastructure and familiarity of community that lets them blend in and conduct business. He says that "they love to live in normal" neighborhoods and lead quiet lives. It's part of what makes Atlanta so popular with the cartels.
"You drive by their house, and you never think anything of it," he says. "They're not going to call attention to it. They're not going to have flashy vehicles out front. You're going to see a couple people come and go, like any normal family."

All seven of the largest cartels, he said, have firmly-established operations here in metro Atlanta.

Murphy says this isn't the first time they have hit this particular cartel--which he would not name--but he says this is one of the biggest seizures from it. He adds that there is a second wave of action coming soon.

"They continually keep coming at us, but we're about to come at them pretty hard," promises Murphy.





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