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United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia

10/21/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/21/2021 13:23

Three men charged following seizure of over 221 kilograms of methamphetamine

ATLANTA - Jaime Cruz Duarte, Rito Armando Torres Gutierrez, and Antonio Penaloza Torres have been charged with federal offenses including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

"The trafficking and production of methamphetamine - particularly in such a great quantity - threatens our community," said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. "We and our federal, state and local law enforcement partners are working tirelessly to combat that threat and keep these dangerous drugs and the crime associated with them from ruining lives."

"This seizure and the charges these methamphetamine dealers now face exemplifies the clear and present danger that poisonous drugs like 'meth' pose to our communities," said the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division Robert J. Murphy. "Because of the collective efforts between DEA and its law enforcement partners, these drugs are now off the streets and these defendants are facing prosecution."

"The dangerousness of this type of methamphetamine production and distribution cannot be overstated," said Dan R. Salter, Executive Director, Atlanta-Carolinas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). "The federal and local law enforcement officers that make up this task force are dedicated to stopping that danger and keeping this community safe from the criminal organizations that are involved in spreading this poison."

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Erskine, the indictment, and other information presented in court: law enforcement officers first became aware of these defendants when Atlanta-Carolinas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) DEA Agents and Task Force Officers arranged a controlled purchase of methamphetamine from a suspected drug broker.

On September 30, 2021, the broker directed an undercover officer posing as a drug buyer to an address in Ellenwood Georgia, where the undercover officer encountered Jaime Cruz Duarte. Duarte provided the officer with approximately one kilogram of methamphetamine. He was then observed returning to a nearby residence.

Shortly thereafter, Rito Armando Torres Gutierrez and Antonio Penaloza Torres were observed leaving the same residence. After further investigation the same day, investigators obtained and executed a search warrant for the residence.

Upon searching the residence, investigators discovered a methamphetamine conversion lab, and seized over 221 kilograms of methamphetamine in various stages of production throughout the house. Agents also seized a handgun from the residence. Evidence obtained from the house indicates that the defendants lived at the residence and were allegedly involved in the production and distribution of large amounts of methamphetamine and the transfer of money obtained through methamphetamine distribution to other members of the conspiracy in other locations including California and Mexico.

Jaime Cruz Duarte, 34, Rito Armando Torres Gutierrez, 22, and Antonio Penaloza Torres, 38, of Ellenwood, Georgia, were indicted on October 19, 2021. All three defendants have been federally detained pending trial. Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

This case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Atlanta-Carolinas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary S. Howard is prosecuting the case.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta recommends parents and children learn about the dangers of drugs at the following web site: www.justthinktwice.gov.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney's Public Affairs Office at [email protected] or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.