Three Mexican nationals illegally present in the United States pleaded guilty to operating a meth lab across the street from an elementary school in an Atlanta suburb. The three defendants—cousins—entered pleas within the last 10 days in federal court.
The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia announced the pleas related to the discovery of an operational meth lab in Norcross, Georgia, back in August 2017.
Agents from Homeland Security Investigations developed intelligence that led to the identification of a suspected stash house located directly across the street from an elementary school. While conducting surveillance, agents observed a car driven by a male later identified as Zury Brito-Arroyo, 27, depart the immediate area. A Georgia patrol vehicle eventually stopped Brito-Arroyo. Officers located and seized $10,000 wrapped in green cellophane and a 9mm pistol. Present with Brito-Arroyo was his wife and a five-year-old child. Investigators obtained a federal search warrant for his cell phone, revealing the defendant had an app allowing him to monitor security cameras situated at the stash house.
Agents served a search warrant at the house and arrested Roberto Arroyo-Garcia, 37, and Bonifacio Brito-Maldonado, 23, in a backyard shed being utilized as a meth lab. Agents seized 26.4 pounds of solid methamphetamine and an additional quantity of liquid product inside the residence. Agents also seized equipment and a second pistol with $8,500. Arroyo-Garcia attempted to escape after being handcuffed but was recaptured. Investigators determined a 10-year-old child and relative of the defendants also lived in the stash house.
Investigators served a second search warrant at another residence connected to the defendants. They discovered other drug paraphernalia, a third pistol, and $41,000.
All three defendants were determined to be illegally present in the United States. Defendant Roberto Arroyo-Garcia, 37, aka “Jonathan Valenzuela Rodriguez,” and Santiago Arroyo Prieto had two previous deportations for drug convictions.
All three defendants pleaded guilty to meth production and trafficking charges. The cousins face sentencing on a future date.
Robert Arce is a retired Phoenix Police detective with extensive experience working Mexican organized crime and street gangs. Arce completed work assignments in the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, and recently completed a three-year tour in Monterrey, Mexico, for the U.S. Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Program.