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Thursday, August 2, 2012

DEA, Fulton DA announce 'unprecedented' drug seizure

Officials with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Fulton County District Attorney's office held a press conference this morning to announce an "unprecedented" bust that resulted in the seizure of millions of dollars in drugs and cash and the dismantling of a Fulton County drug operation.

Standing in front of several tables lined with evidence bags, Harry S. Sommers, the DEA Atlanta office's special agent in charge, said officers seized nearly 90 pounds of heroin, more than 4 pounds of crystal meth, $2 million in cash, and guns, from a Gwinnett County stash house.

Sommers says the drugs were found in two "cavities" hidden behind drywall and a refrigerator at a house located on Megan Road in Duluth‬. Police arrested three people at the house, two of whom are Mexican nationals and one U.S. citizen. The discovery of the drugs at the house subsequently led police to a "safe house" in the metro area — agents did not specify where — where they discovered $2 million dollars in cash.

Sommers, who said the use of heroin is a "trajectory of death" and that the drugs seized yesterday would have "obviously gone into the hands of children," told reporters at the Richard B. Rusell Federal Building in downtown Atlanta today that he thinks the drug operation was connected to "drug cartels in Mexico." Specifically, the Gulf Drug Cartel.

Sommers admitted that the amount of heroin on the street is "significantly higher" then it was a decade ago. When asked what the narcotic's increased availability said about America's long-running war on drugs, Sommers said that criminals were finding ways of providing "poison to our children" and that the increased availability was not a reflection of the success or failure of the campaign against drugs.

Government reports issued in 2011 said that despite spending billions of dollars to stop the flow of drugs into the United States, the money has had little impact. Neil Franklin, the executive director of LEAP, a group of police officers, judges, and jailers who are calling for the legalization of drugs, says this type of seizure creates a greater risk for violence in communities.

"When the police take drugs off the street and make arrests, it creates a void that will be filled relatively soon," said Franklin, whose 34-year law enforcement career included positions as a state police narcotics agent and one-time commander of Maryland's Bureau of Drug and Criminal Enforcement. "And usually that occurs by way of violence. The more we push in law enforcement, the more violent our streets become."

Franklin called the drug war a "complete failure" that has resulted in street violence, jails filled with non-violent inmates, and the availability of more drugs. Franklin said that when he was in law enforcement during the 70s and 80s, drug seizures were much smaller because they weren't as readily available. Now, Franklin says, after 30 years and trillions of dollars, there are "drug dealers on every doggone corner."

Photos of drugs and money following the break

Some of the more than 2 million dollars seized at a safehouse in the Atlanta metro area
  • Joeff Davis
  • Some of the more than $2 million seized at a safehouse in the metro Atlanta area

Some of the 86 pounds of heroin seized in the bust.
  • Joeff Davis
  • Some of the 86 pounds of heroin seized in the bust.

Some of the Crystal Meth and guns seized in the bust.
  • Joeff Davis
  • Some of the crystal meth and guns seized in the bust.

Photograph of where the heroin was stashed at the house in Gwinnett where the drug bust occurred.
  • Joeff Davis
  • Photograph of where the heroin was stashed at the Gwinnett County house where the drug bust occurred.

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