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Feds bust Gwinnett drug cell
$2 million seized

ATLANTA - Authorities have pulled $2 million and hundreds of pounds of drugs from a Mexican drug cell with a presence in Gwinnett, officials announced this week.

The busts resulted in the indictments of 13 men who reportedly ran massive, clandestine shipments of cocaine and money from Mexico to metro Atlanta in tractor-trailers, authorities said.

A portion of the 68 kilograms (150 pounds) of cocaine and 800 pounds of marijuana recovered by federal agents was found in Lawrenceville, said Barbara Gonzalez, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Atlanta.

Agents also confiscated three firearms belonging to the traffickers in Gwinnett's county seat, she said.

Seven of the 13 indicted men have been arrested. They include Gwinnett County Jail detainees Robert Chavez-Diaz, 32, Miguel Angel Donis-Gonzales, 20, Jose Alberto Barriaga-Gonzales, 20, and Julian Alejandro Castro-Zamora, 27, said Gonzalez. Other suspects are jailed in Cobb and Webb counties.

Each suspect is charged with state-level narcotics violations, Gonzalez said.

The ICE-led investigation, which was assisted by the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department, began in early April.

As with other recent busts in Gwinnett, investigators found that traffickers used legitimate merchandise - including produce and textiles - as cover loads to conceal cocaine pipelined to Atlanta, Gonzalez said. Proceeds from the drugs were then shipped back to Mexico in large quantities.

Kenneth A. Smith, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Atlanta, said in a statement that each arrest and cash seizure helps to cripple the Mexican drug trade that's taken root in metro Atlanta.

"We're striking drug traffickers at their core by having an impact where it hurts them the most - their pockets," Smith said.