Men who ran Gwinnett meth lab near school sentenced to federal prison

Credit: File photo

Credit: File photo

Three men who pleaded guilty to running a methamphetamine lab near a Gwinnett County elementary school have collectively been sentenced to more than 60 years in prison, officials said Monday.

The men, who are cousins, all pleaded guilty to multiple charges in October 2019, according to Kurt Erskine, acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. The longest sentence of the three was handed down Monday when 39-year-old Roberto Arroyo-Garcia was ordered to serve 22 years in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release, Erskine said.

In October, 24-year-old Bonifacio Brito-Maldonado was sentenced to 19 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release, Erskine said. The first sentence was announced in February 2020, when 28-year-old Zury Brito-Arroyo was given 21 years in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release.

ExploreGwinnett men plead guilty to running meth lab near elementary school

The men pleaded guilty to manufacturing and distributing methamphetamine in a family home where a 10-year-old child lived and within 200 feet of Rockbridge Elementary School in Norcross. All three entered the U.S. illegally, according to Erskine’s office.

“These men ran a lab churning out volatile and toxic chemicals to produce concentrated methamphetamine,” Erskine said. “In doing so, they were exposing not only members of their own family, including children, an expectant mother, and a grandmother, to serious harm, but also innocent neighbors and school children who were completely unaware of the danger.”

According to Katrina Berger, a Department of Homeland Security special agent, the consequences of meth production include toxic vapors and deadly chemicals.

“These chemicals pose extreme danger to anyone in the vicinity,” Berger said. “The innocent children in the school next door and even the other family members in the household were placed in danger due to the defendants’ recklessness.”

The cousins were arrested when Brito-Arroyo was seen leaving the location of the meth lab and was stopped by a Georgia State Patrol trooper. The trooper found $10,000 in cash wrapped in cellophane in the car, as well as a 9mm pistol, the Justice Department said.

After Brito-Arroyo’s arrest, Homeland Security investigators got a search warrant for his phone and were able to use an app to view security camera footage from the home where the meth lab was located. 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.

Agents seized more than 10 kilograms of crystal meth, some of which was more than 90% pure, and an unspecified amount of liquid meth, the Justice Department said. They also found another 9mm pistol, more than $8,500 in cash and “other methamphetamine trafficking paraphernalia, including respirators, rubber gloves and digital scales,” according to a release.

Agents also searched another home where Brito-Arroyo stayed and found another 9mm pistol, an electronic money counter and four bundles of cash totaling $41,000, the release said.