NORCROSS - On a quiet street in Norcross, the city's Special Weapons and Tactics team recently raided a rental house, confiscating a city record of about 930 pounds of marijuana with a street value of nearly a quarter million dollars.
Police were led to the "stash house" Friday on Huddersfield Way near Beaver Ruin Road and Buford Highway after an officer saw a BMW with Texas tags pull up early that morning and park behind the house, which was suspicious because most people park in a home's driveway, Norcross Detective Jason Carter said. After a few minutes, the car pulled away, adding to the officer's suspicion that something illegal had taken place.
So the officer pulled the car over and asked to search the vehicle, finding three semiautomatic handguns and $10,000 that none of the three men in the car would claim, Carter said. The men, who are Hispanic, were placed in investigative detention while officers secured a warrant to search the house.
Once inside, police found the unoccupied home was sparsely furnished - just a sofa, television, video game console, a little food, and three assault rifles with loaded magazines and boxes and boxes of bullets, Carter said.
"We got lucky," Carter said. "With this type of weaponry, it could have been a bad day, not only for us but for the neighboring homes."
In the basement, police found bundles of marijuana that someone had weighed and labeled, Carter said. Some of the bundles had been torn open, presumably so the ware could be sampled by buyers.
The street value of the weed is about $266,000, Carter said. While police don't know exactly where the pot came from, its dry nature suggests it was grown out west, maybe in Mexico, he said. Before Friday's bust, the record amount of marijuana confiscated in Norcross had been 60 pounds, Carter said.
Carter said he believes the stash house was operated by different people than the ones accused of running grow houses, in which higher-quality marijuana was being cultivated. Since mid-February, authorities have discovered more than 35 grow houses scattered across 13 metro area counties; at least nine grow houses have been discovered in Gwinnett.
As for the stash house, the three men in the BMW were arrested on drug charges. Carter said he anticipates more arrests.
"This is just one rung on the ladder," he said.
Jesus Ivan Chavez-Gomez, 20, is being held in the Gwinnett County Detention Center on charges of trafficking in marijuana, carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a weapon during a crime. His address, according to jail records, is 3173 Huddersfield Way in Norcross.
Mario Alberto Degollado, 24, of Lilburn and Carlos Manuel Rosales-Martinez, 33, of San Antonio, Texas, are being held in the jail on charges of carrying a concealed weapon and attempt or conspiracy to commit a violation of state drug laws. Degollado is also facing charges of possession of marijuana and giving a false name or information.