East Coast Record-Breaking Meth Seizure in Georgia
MAR 09 – In a press conference today, Special Agent in Charge Sherri F. Strange, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Atlanta Field Division, and David E. Nahmias, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia announced that DEA acting together with local law enforcement officers have made a record seizure of 174 pounds of methamphetamine in the form of "Ice" and approximately $1 million in cash from two residences located in the Atlanta area.
Agents acting as a part of an ongoing investigation conducted the seizures late Monday evening from two residences located in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Victoriano VEGA- Jimenez, aka- Jose Raul HERNANDEZ , aka "Pajaro", 42 years of age, of Lawrenceville, has been arrested on a charge of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
According to a federal complaint filed this afternoon, agents watched VEGA attempt to deliver five pounds of methamphetamine in the form of ice to a residence in Duluth, Georgia, on March 7, 2005. The agents arrested VEGA and seized the drugs. Agents then searched VEGA's vehicle and found a drug ledger for the period of February 19, 2005 through March 6, 2005. The ledger appears to show the distribution of approximately 134 pounds of methamphetamine and the collection of approximately $766,000 in payments for the drugs. Agents also found that VEGA's vehicle was equipped with two hidden compartments that are activated electronically and typically used to hide drugs and money.
The complaint states that, after VEGA's arrest, the agents searched two residences located in Lawrenceville that are associated with VEGA. At the first residence, agents found approximately 169 pounds of ice and $80,000 located in two vehicles parked at the house. Inside the house, agents discovered approximately $700,000 in cash hidden in a false compartment in a wooden chest, a loaded 12-gauge shotgun and two loaded semi-automatic handguns, and more drug ledgers. These drug ledgers appear to show the recent distribution of hundreds of pounds of ice and the collection of more than $6,000,000 as payments for the drugs.
The complaint states that, at the second residence, the agents discovered approximately $150,000 in cash. The agents also searched a safety deposit box associated with VEGA and seized another $200,000 in cash.
During the news conference this afternoon, at the DEA Atlanta office, Special Agent in Charge (SAC)Sherri F. Strange and United States Attorney David Nahmias stressed that this is an ongoing investigation and that there were many elements of the case that cannot be addressed publicly, but noted that this is the second major ice seizure in the Atlanta area in less than six weeks.
SAC Strange said, "In the last two months, DEA's message to the public about the onslaught of methamphetamine and ice in metropolitan Atlanta is unfortunately exemplified with this seizure. This seizure is the ABSOLUTE largest meth seizure on record for the East Coast and ranks 15th overall in the nation. The gravity of the situation must not be underestimated. I cannot emphasize enough the extreme danger of using methamphetamine and especially ice. No one in DEA, or our partners in law enforcement, can rest until this poison no longer exists.
SAC Strange noted the multi-million dollar street value of the ice displayed at today's news conference from the latest seizure. The drug currently sells for $80 to $225 per gram, which would make the "street value" price of the seizure between $6.3 to $17.7 million. SAC Strange explained that many market conditions dictate a "street price", but that most users buy in quantities of a gram or less, which would make the overall street price even higher. SAC Strange told the group that the quantities of ice seized in metro-Atlanta have increased dramatically over the past two years. She illustrated her point with examples of different ice seizures. In 2003, the DEA Atlanta office made ice seizures in the amounts of four or seven pounds, in 2004 the seizure amounts became 30 or 70 pounds, in 2005 the amounts have risen to 125 or now 174 pounds. The progression is dramatic.
SAC Strange and United States Attorney Nahmias repeated their warning to the public that meth and ice are an increasing threat to our community and a priority of federal law enforcement. Ice is a particularly potent form of methamphetamine, similar to the relationship crack has to cocaine, as it is highly addictive and often sold and marketed as the drug's most powerful form. Meth, and in particular ice, is a more powerful stimulant than cocaine and is highly addictive.
This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the DEA, and its Task Force, comprised of Gwinnett County Police Department, Doraville Police Department, MCS (Marietta, Cobb, Smyrna) Task Force, the City of Atlanta Police Department, the Roswell Police Department, the City of Clarkston Police Department, East Point Police Department, Henry County Police Department, Spalding County Sheriff's Office, and Henry County Sheriff's Office. Assistant United States Attorney Kurt Erskine is prosecuting the case outlined in today's news conference.
For further information please contact DEA Group Supervisor Ruth Porter-Whipple at 404-893-7128.