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Police stumble upon $5M in meth

LAWRENCEVILLE - You never know what goes behind closed doors in even the quietest neighborhoods - something Primrose Parc residents discovered firsthand Monday night when police seized more than $5 million in drugs from a townhome.

Officers were summoned about 5:45 p.m. to investigate a woman who reportedly needed protection screaming inside a residence. The caller provided 911 dispatchers with a street address of 1202 Primrose View Circle but didn't want to talk with police, said Cpl. Darren Moloney, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department.

Jorge Moreno Marciel, 28, answered the door at the town house and allowed officers inside to investigate the complaint. Through an interpreter, Marciel told police that a man and woman had been fighting there earlier, but they left just prior to police arrival. While talking to Marciel, the uniform officers noticed several items of drug paraphernalia sitting out in the open.

The house was locked down and a search warrant obtained.

Scattered in several rooms throughout the house, investigators found 51,306 grams of methamphetamine with a street value of approximately $5.1 million and 8,566 grams of marijuana worth about $85,660. Some of the drugs packaged in bricks and other containers were lying in plain sight, said Maj. Bart Hulsey, who heads the Gwinnett County Multi-Agency Drug Task Force.

Police believe the townhome served as a "breakdown house," where meth is taken after being cooked to be cleaned and packaged. The drugs are then shipped elsewhere.

Marciel was arrested on charges of trafficking in meth and marijuana. Police never found the couple that was allegedly arguing at the residence.

"This is not the biggest drug bust in Gwinnett County history, but it is a large one," Hulsey said. "It shows that if citizens are vigilant and pay attention to what is going on in their area and let us know, there's no telling what kind of small information they give us could lead to a major bust like this."

Investigators will be following up on leads in the coming weeks to identify other possible suspects in the drug trafficking operation.

Primrose Parc is a small community off Cruse Road and Old Shackleford Road. Built in 2003, the two-story townhomes sell for about $140,000, according to real estate listings.

A neighbor across the street from the town house, 20-year-old Donald Makonye, was still stunned Tuesday morning about the drug activity that had been going on under his nose just a few doors down. He recalled arriving home from a class Monday night to find police surrounding area, some officers with their hands on their holsters as if ready to draw their gun at any time, Makonye said.

"Wow. That's amazing," Makonye said. "It's kind of scary that such things go on behind closed doors right next door. I had no idea."

Task force diligent

A coalition of Gwinnett law enforcement agencies in 2005 more than tripled the amount of narcotics seizures from the previous year and also arrested a record number of drug offenders.

The Gwinnett County Multi-Agency Drug Task Force locked up 1,475 alleged drug offenders in 2005, up from 1,314 the previous year. Police also confiscated $34 million worth of narcotics last year, more than triple the $9,543,268 in narcotics that was seized in 2004, Moloney said.

In another drug raid earlier this month, four people were arrested and more than $1 million worth of cocaine and other drugs were seized as a result of a police investigation into Hometown Title Loan, a Lawrenceville pawn shop.