Cherokee County authorities recently broke up a methamphetamine ring with ties to Texas and Mexico, officials said, making four arrests and uncovering more than $500,000 worth of the drug stashed inside hollowed out fire extinguishers.
The investigation by the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad — comprised of representatives from the sheriff’s office, several local police departments and multiple state agencies — began with a Jan. 26 arrest trafficking arrest in Bartow County. Authorities there believed the seized methamphetamine came from “a group operating out of Woodstock.”
A few weeks later, CMANS investigators followed an alleged member of that group to Houston, Texas, where they believe he “received a shipment” of meth. The man, 43-year-old Woodstock resident Alberto Gabriel, returned to Georgia on Valentine’s Day, leading authorities to approximately 42 pounds of methamphetamine “base powder.”
“The contraband was concealed in three large fire extinguisher tanks,” according to an emailed 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 and charged with trafficking. Three other men were also arrested after undercover CMANS investigators “were able to successfully purchase large quantities of methamphetamine from several individuals in the organization.”
Jorge Soberanis, 45, was charged with three counts of trafficking methamphetamine, 24-year-old Angel Martinez was charged with one count, and 26-year-old Alex Penazola was charged with probation violation. All four men are being held without bond at 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.”
The investigation is ongoing and more arrests are possible, Baker said.
The incident is at least the second large-scale drug bust in metro Atlanta this month. On Feb. 2, Gwinnett County authorities recovered more than 500 pounds of marijuana — valued at more than $1.2 million — from a U-Haul truck stopped in Lawrenceville.