Gwinnett men plead guilty to running meth lab near elementary school

Three cousins have pleaded guilty to running a meth lab near a Norcross elementary school, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Roberto Arroyo-Garcia, 37, of Norcross, pleaded guilty to federal charges of methamphetamine trafficking on premises where a minor child resides and within 1,000 feet of a school Thursday. Zury Brito-Arroyo, 27, and Bonifaci Brito-Maldondo, 23, pleaded guilty to those charges and an additional charge of maintaining a premises for methamphetamine trafficking on Oct. 17.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security agents began investigating a Norcross meth distributor in August 2017. The investigation led them to a house across the street from an Rockbridge Elementary School in Norcross.

After the house was identified, Brito-Arroyo was seen leaving the property and was stopped by a Georgia State Patrol officer. The officer found $10,000 in cash wrapped in cellophane in the car, as well as a 9mm pistol, the Justice Department said. Brito-Arroyo was arrested.

The Homeland Security agents got a search warrant for Brito-Arroyo’s phone and found an app that showed security footage from inside the house. The agents then got a warrant to search the house, where they found Arroyo-Garcia and Brito-Maldonado “actively operating” a meth lab in a backyard shed, the Justice Department said. They were both arrested.

Agents seized more than 12 kg of crystal meth and an unspecified amount of liquid meth, the Justice Department said. They also found anther 9mm pistol, more than $8,500 in cash and “other methamphetamine trafficking paraphernalia,” according to a Justice Department release.

The DEA Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement Team removed “dangerous chemicals” from the property. Agents found children’s clothes and determined a 10-year-old child was living in the home while the meth lab was operational. Another gun, $41,000 and a bin with methamphetamine residue was also found at a Sandy Springs home where Brito-Arroyo also stayed.

“These criminals’ days of selling poison and endangering children, neighbors and other innocent people are over,” said Travis Pickard, Homeland Security Investigations Atlanta acting special agent in charge. “HSI is firmly committed to working with state and local law enforcement partners to dismantle drug trafficking organizations and protect our communities.

All three defendants were in the United States without authorization at the time of their arrests. That means they will likely be deported after serving their sentences. Sentencing has not occurred yet, and no sentencing date was provided by the Justice Department on Thursday.

Like Gwinnett County News on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter and Instagram
Stay up to the minute with breaking news on Channel 2 Action News This Morning