Three men now know the formal federal charges against them related to operation of an “extremely large” meth lab officers found operating in Paulding County in June.
Daniel Landa-Duerta, 20, of Múgica, Mexico; Mauricio Dominguez-Vazquez, 53, of Tallahassee, Florida; and Jorge Armando Avalos-Menera, 32, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, were arraigned on federal charges related to methamphetamine seized from a conversion laboratory in an area north of Dallas, a news release stated.
A federal grand jury indicted them July 24 and charged each of them with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and one count of possessing with intent to distribute at least 500 grams of methamphetamine, the release stated.
Law enforcement officers uncovered an active lab near Dallas June 26 that was allegedly used to convert liquid methamphetamine into crystal methamphetamine for distribution, according to U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court.
Large quantities of crystal and liquid meth were seized in the laboratory, and additional meth was seized in a traffic stop of a vehicle leaving the laboratory, the release stated.
In total, law enforcement seized more than 80 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine and approximately 75 gallons of liquid methamphetamine during the course of the investigation, the release said.
Sheriff Gary Gulledge said in June it was “the largest amount of methamphetamine that I have ever seen in my career and likely the most that has ever been seized in Paulding County.”
Robert J. Murphy, special agent in charge of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s Atlanta Field Division, said the case “began with information provided to law enforcement by concerned citizens in Paulding County.”
Sgt. Ashley Henson of the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office said the clandestine lab allegedly operated in a house at 809 Williams Road in Dallas before agents with the Haralson-Paulding Drug Task Force got a “credible tip of drug activity” at the residence June 25.
The following day, June 26, deputies conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle that had just left the residence — which led to a foot pursuit and subsequent arrest of a suspect, Henson said.
Paulding County Sheriff’s Office S.W.A.T. Team members and task force agents then executed a search warrant at the residence. The S.W.A.T. Team located “what appeared to be an active, clandestine methamphetamine conversion lab inside the residence,” Henson said.
“The operation had methamphetamine in all stages of production,” he said. “Due to this fact Paulding County Fire/Rescue (hazardous materials) units responded to the scene.”
Task force agents then contacted the federal Drug Enforcement Administration for assistance “due to the magnitude of this operation,” Henson said.
Murphy said agents “acted immediately to prohibit citizens being exposed.”
“A search warrant led to the dismantling of an extremely large clandestine methamphetamine conversion lab and the seizure of an unprecedented amount of methamphetamine in Paulding County,” Murphy said.
“The Haralson Paulding Drug Task Force, the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration are working together to ensure a safe and positive outcome for all.”
Murphy said the “cocktail of deadly chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine are a recipe for disaster.”
“These substances are not only volatile and toxic, but they also destroy families, communities and lives,” he said. “Because of the collective effort between our local, state and federal law enforcement counterparts and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, these defendants were brought to justice and will no longer be able to distribute these dangerous chemicals.”
Pak said, “Methamphetamine is poison and continues to be a scourge in our district.
“Thanks to our vigilant law enforcement partners, this large quantity of drugs was discovered and seized before it could make its way into our community,” he said.
The Haralson-Paulding Drug Task Force consists of officers and deputies from the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office, Haralson County Sheriff’s Office, Dallas Police Department, and Tallapoosa Police Department and is overseen by a GBI Assistant Special Agent In Charge.