08/22/2006

Record methamphetamine drug bust in Ga.

By KATE BRUMBACK
Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA- Federal officials on Monday announced a "record-breaking seizure" of crystal methamphetamine buried in the back yard of a suburban home that they say was operated by a Mexican-based drug ring.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents found 187 1/2 pounds (85 kilograms) of suspected meth and 41 1-kilo bricks - just over 90 pounds - of suspected cocaine during a search last week, said Sherri Strange, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency's Atlanta office.

She called it the third largest meth seizure in the U.S. this year, with an estimated total street value of $25 million to $50 million (euro19.35 million to euro38.7 million).

"Atlanta continues to be a hub for meth distribution in the Southeast," Strange said.

Four men have been charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine: Eduardo Castro Torres, 43, of Michoacan, Mexico, also a resident of California; Julio Ruesga Barajas, 28, of Santa Ana, California; Ignacio Castro Torres, 39, of Buford, Georgia; and Enrique Medina, 25, of Madalena, Mexico. All four were at the home in Buford at the time of the seizure. Buford is 33 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of Atlanta.

A notebook found in a hidden compartment of a car found on the premises is believed to detail transactions involving large quantities of meth and cocaine.

Agents were watching the house Wednesday and saw two of the men uncovering something in the backyard. The cache was hidden in duffel bags inside 55-gallon (208-liter) trash cans that were buried so that the tops were flush with the ground.

Law enforcement officials found a money counter and digital scales buried in a Rubbermaid container next to the garage. Inside the garage, they found $30,000 (euro23,220) in cash wrapped in a clear plastic vacuum-sealed bag.

The operation in Buford was part of a Mexican drug ring that imports and distributes multi-kilogram (multi-pound) quantities of meth and cocaine from Mexico by moving it through California and Texas to points throughout the U.S.

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