ATLANTA - Federal agents - aided by local law enforcement officers - conducted several early morning raids Wednesday in and around Gwinnett, netting suspects, money, drugs and weapons.
The seizures and arrests are the culmination of an 18-month investigation called Operation Grand Finale, authorities said, targeting a major Mexican drug trafficking organization. Police said the cartel is responsible for smuggling large amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States.
According to a Department of Justice press release, agents have seized nearly 600 grams of cocaine, 219 pounds of meth and more than $3.5 million in cash. Weapons, including assault rifles, have also been confiscated.
"(Different agencies) worked together to disrupt a major cell of a ... notoriously violent drug trafficking organization and took a major step toward eradicating a significant threat to our economic and national security," said Greg Jones, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Atlanta. "Today's efforts are a clear example of what can be accomplished by the metro Atlanta law enforcement community when we work together toward a common threat."
A total of 16 suspects are named in indictments, 15 of which are in custody. Authorities said 12 of those are in the Atlanta area, one in Tennessee and two in McAllen, Texas.
United States Attorney David E. Nahmias said these types of cartels use metro Atlanta as a base of operations to distribute large amounts of drugs all across the country.
"As we take down these criminal organizations one after another, hopefully one day we can say Atlanta is no longer a repository for drug dealers," said Special Agent Reginael McDaniel of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation unit.
According to search warrants, authorities believe the drug money was sent back to McAllen, where it was smuggled into Mexico and into the hands of the organization's leaders.
The case is being investigated by the FBI and the David G. Wilhelm Atlanta Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, which consists of several federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.