Dacula 'stash house' busted

and arielle.kass@gwinnettdailypost.com

LAWRENCEVILLE - About $14 million in drugs were seized after a three-week investigation by authorities in Gwinnett, Clarke and Barrow counties that culminated Wednesday.

The sting of a Dacula "stash house" boosted Gwinnett County Drug Task Force seizures to $47 million this year - exceeding last year's record-setting $34 million in drug seizures with five months still remaining in 2006. It was also the largest drug bust to date for Barrow County investigators, bringing their total for the year to almost $15 million.

It all started three weeks ago with a tip and a traffic stop in Barrow. Since then, investigators have seized about $14 million worth of narcotics and arrested nine people, said Murray Kogod, chief deputy of the Barrow County Sheriff's Office.

Nine sub-operations were conducted in Gwinnett, Barrow and Clarke counties, Kogod said. Officers confiscated 11 ounces of methamphetamine, 90 kilograms of powder cocaine and 1,073 pounds of marijuana.

They also seized three firearms, including a Mac-10 assault rifle, four vehicles and more than $80,000 in drug money.

Gwinnett police executed a search warrant at 430 Charlyne Way in Dacula just after midnight Wednesday, where they confiscated a majority of the drugs - about $12 million worth, said Cpl. Darren Moloney, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department. A firearm, a van and about $7,000 in cash were also taken from the home.

"The bottom line is the drugs are off the street," Moloney said. "This is an example of different law enforcement agencies working together.

Even though by law we were restricted by boundaries, drug dealers don't care about that."

Kogod said the amount of drugs confiscated this year by his department is significantly higher than in the past. He expected more arrests to be made in the investigation.

"As we continue to investigate, these type of operations continue to grow," he said. "One thing just keeps leading to another, keeps leading to another. We're just going to chase it all out till it's finished."

The suspects arrested in connection with the multi-jurisdictional investigation were: Antonio Martinez, 29, Sergio Espinoza, 27, Mitchell Cox, 29, and Vivian Giang, all of Winder; William Stanton, 48, of Jefferson; Marcos Gallian, 21, and Miguel Rico, 26, both of Statham; and Heriberto Rangel, 25, and Lazaro Hernandez Contreras, 34, both of Dacula.

All of the suspects are being held at the Barrow County Detention Center.