Traffic stop leads to massive meth lab bust in Gwinnett County

Federal authorities say they have busted a large meth lab in Gwinnett County that has ties to a Mexican drug cartel.

A Drug Enforcement Administration agent says a truck stopped in Banks County yielded over 100 pounds of multicolored methamphetamine.

“The meth was all colored, different colors and we had not seen that before,” DEA special agent in charge Robert Murphy said.

Murphy said agents then hit the house they believed it had come from.

“We conducted a search warrant there and found an active methamphetamine lab with over 2,000 pounds of meth in process, liquid meth in a conversion lab,” Murphy said.

“That’s enough for hundreds of thousands of doses?” Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne asked Murphy.

“Absolutely,” Murphy said. “The laboratory was in a residential neighborhood. The two individuals from the Mexican cartel had set up shop.”

Murphy said the timing of the case underscores the importance of reducing the amount of methamphetamine on the street but also of reducing the demand for it and other drugs.

He said the clandestine lab to convert liquid methamphetamine smuggled in from Mexico into powdered or crystallized meth that could be sold on the street was located someplace in Snellville but he’s not making public the exact location because of the ongoing investigation.


“The chemicals used in it are extremely dangerous. We have to send our hazmat, our clean lab teams out there, wear hazmats to deal with it, very expensive to dispose of the chemicals. So yeah, it’s obviously very dangerous to the community, not only the finished product but the actual process of making its dangerous,” Murphy said. “It’s volatile chemicals and bad things happen.”

Murphy said the lab was taken down Oct. 19, shortly before the beginning of the annual DEA-led Red Ribbon Week, which is one of DEA’s biggest initiatives to reduce the demand for drugs and is a campaign targeting primarily school kids.

“If we can save one life, we make a difference. And I know we are doing that,” veteran DEA agent Chuvalo Truesdell said. “If they’re successful in not using drugs early and throughout their teenage years, they’re unlikely to ever use a drug in their lifetime.”

Truesdell said Woodward Academy was one of eight schools he visited for Red Ribbon Week in recent days, totaling about 50 presentations.

“Do you ever have kids come up to you after a presentation and talk about the drug use in their family?” Winne asked Truesdell.

“All the time Mark. These kids are impacted. They’re directly impacted,” Truesdell said.

He said the drugs kids mention range from meth to marijuana.

“I also had a family member offer me drugs for the first time and I share that story. And let them know that I didn’t indulge,” Truesdell said.

Murphy said Red Ribbon Week started as a reaction to the 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena.

It is especially meaningful this year since this summer Mexican Marines captured Rafael Caro Quintero, who is one of the people alleged to have played a major role in Camarena’s death.

Murphy said the meth has been sent to the DEA lab for final confirmation, but given chemicals and paraphilia found in the lab, he has no doubt the drugs will come back positive as meth.

He said Red Ribbon is about all kinds of illicit drugs, including deadly fentanyl, which he said accounted for about 85% of the 107,000 drug overdose deaths in America last year.

He said cartels based in Mexico supply the poison Americans use to wipe themselves out.