Feds: Fayette drug agents helped take down Mexican cell
The Tactical Narcotics Team of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office was lauded this week for participating in an investigation that led to disruption of a Mexican drug trafficking organization that operated in nearby Ellenwood.
In three separate incidents involving the cell, agents seized over 900 pounds of marijuana and $1.8 million in cash, officials said.
The investigation culminated Tuesday in the guilty plea of Oscar Morfin Vargas, 29, a citizen of Mexico who was illegally living in the U.S. Vargas pled guilty to federal drug and money laundering charges for distributing more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and returning millions of dollars in drug proceeds to Mexico.
TNT worked with agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Georgia State Patrol and the U.S. Marshal’s Service on the investigation, which included the following according to federal prosecutors:
• On October 3, 2009, DEA agents saw a pickup truck leaving a residence in Ellenwood, Georgia, belonging to Morfin. Georgia State Patrol Troopers conducted a traffic stop on Highway I-20 of the pickup truck, which contained 4-wheel ATV’s, one of which was found with more than $435,000 hidden in its tires. Intercepted telephone communications, some directly involving Morfin, showed his involvement in the incident.
• On October 19, 2009, a Texas-based commercial truck driver drove a rig loaded with approximately 911 pounds of marijuana, hidden in a load of papayas, to a secluded multi-acre residence located in Griffin, Georgia that was being used by the local cell as a drug off-loading site. DEA Strike Force, Marshal’s Service, and Fayette County authorities, seized the marijuana the following day. The tractor-trailer driver, Gilberto Avalos Rivera, was arrested and has been tried and convicted in federal court for transporting the marijuana. Intercepted telephone communications, some directly involving Morfin, again showed his involvement in this drug incident.
• The final incident occurred at a residential property in Rex, Georgia, where Morfin was found and arrested on the night of October 19, 2009. Intercepted telephone calls, including those involving Morfin, revealed that he was attempting to hide money in response to the seizure of marijuana that had just occurred at the Griffin property. When agents arrived at the residence, Morfin provided his consent for agents to search the area. Forty-four bundles of tape-wrapped money exceeding more than $1.3 million was found in the attic. The packaging was the same as that of one of the bundles seized on October 3, 2009, from the 4-wheel ATV that had left Morfin’s residence. In addition, a Taurus handgun was found in the master bedroom where Morfin had been sleeping. Drug ledgers seized from the Rex, Griffin, and Ellenwood properties confirmed the scope of the drug activity and Morfin’s involvement in managing the local operation.
Fayette County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jody Thomas said of the case, “We are proud of our relationship with DEA, and this case is an example of what good cooperative effort between law enforcement agencies can accomplish.”