By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer
Three men who used a tractor-trailer and an Atlanta-area warehouse to hide and distribute marijuana will spend several years in prison before being deported.
Marco Ortiz-Barajas, 19, Angel Zamudio-Martinez, 54, and Jose Luis Chavez-Morfin, 43, pleaded guilty this summer to conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute.
All three men are from Mexico originally, but lived in the Atlanta area. They were sentenced this week in U.S. District Court by Senior U.S. District Judge William O’Kelley, according to an FBI news release.
Chavez-Morfin was sentenced to five years, 10 months in prison and five years of supervised release. Zamudio-Martinez was sentenced to four years, two months in prison and five years of supervised release. Ortiz-Barajas was sentenced to three years in prison and five years of supervised release.
All three men will be deported to Mexico following their time in prison.
The FBI says the case highlights the continued use of Atlanta as a key drug distribution stop that starts in Mexico and often winds up on streets in the U.S.
“This case demonstrates that Atlanta and its surrounding environs continue to serve as a hub for the distribution of marijuana and other drugs smuggled into the United States from Mexico,” said Brock Nicholson, special agent in charge of U.S. ICE Homeland Security Investigations, according to an FBI news release.
While conducting an undercover investigation, agents learned drugs would be heading toward a Gainesville, GA, warehouse by way of truck and obtained a search warrant. Investigators went through a truck and trailer after it arrived at the warehouse. Underneath cilantro, peppers and other green vegetables, agents found 1,572 pounds of marijuana, worth about $3.1 million on the black market.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the Gainesville-Hall County (GA) Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad. Arrests were made by the Hall County Sheriff’s SWAT Team, Gainesville Police Department and Hall County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, FBI Safe Streets Task Force, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Georgia State Patrol and Georgia State Patrol Aviation Division.