The Cherokee County Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad in Georgia uncovered more than $546,000 in methamphetamine hidden in hollowed out fire extinguishers as the result of a weeks-long investigation into a drug trafficking ring with ties to Mexico and Texas on Feb. 14.
The investigation began when a man with suspected ties to the drug ring was arrested for trafficking on Jan. 26 in nearby Bartow County, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported. Several week later, authorities followed another man, 43-year-old Alberto Gabriel, who is suspected of being affiliated with the same group, to Houston, Texas, where he allegedly “received a shipment” of methamphetamine.
Authorities accused Gabriel of bringing 42 pounds of methamphetamine “base powder” to Georgia, where he lives, on Valentine’s Day, Inside Edition reported.
“The contraband was concealed in three large fire extinguisher tanks,” according to a statement from Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Jay Baker. “Agents believe this powder was destined for a conversion lab (a facility to turn the powder into crystal methamphetamine) somewhere in metro Atlanta.”
Gabriel was arrested on trafficking charges and undercover officers were able to “successfully purchase large quantities of methamphetamine from several individuals in the organization.”
Both 45-year-old Jorge Soberanis and 24-year-old Angel Martinez were charged with trafficking methamphetamine. Alex Penazola, 26, was charged with violating probation and the group is being held in the Cherokee County jail.
“Using undercover operatives in an investigation of this nature can be extremely dangerous,” Baker said. “This deep commitment to the investigation, and willingness to operate in a covert capacity within a criminal organization whose roots stretch to Mexico, is a testament to the professionalism of the CMANS agents involved.”
This is the second large drug bust in the Atlanta area in February. Authorities in Gwinnett County found more than 500 pounds of marijuana in a U-Haul truck.