By Ashley Cox

ATLANTA, Ga. (CW44 News At 10)- Juan Carlos Torres-Carranza and Luis Pineda-Soto have been sentenced for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 418.95 kilograms of methamphetamine.

“The trafficking of large amounts of methamphetamine into and through the Northern District of Georgia continues to be a problem,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine.  “We and our law enforcement partners are using every tool available to combat this scourge, which breeds violent crime, and presents a major public health risk.”

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“This is a significant amount of poison that thankfully won’t reach the streets of our communities and continue to destroy lives,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Cases like this are only possible because of the hard work and dedication of our agents, officers and law enforcement partners, and I am proud of their efforts.”

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Erskine, the charges and other information presented in court: On June 1, 2020, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents began conducting visual surveillance at a warehouse located in McDonough, Georgia.  The following day, as HSI agents continued their surveillance, they saw a semi-tractor trailer arrive at the warehouse.  The trailer was then unhooked and the semi-tractor that was pulling the trailer drove off.  According to Homeland Security databases, the trailer was taken across the border into the United States from Mexico on May 20, 2020.

Agents continued to perform surveillance on the warehouse and the trailer into the late evening and early morning hours of June 3, 2020.  At approximately 11:30 p.m., Pineda-Soto and Torres-Carranza, driving a pickup truck, and another individual driving a car arrived at the warehouse.  Shortly after arriving, all three individuals began working on the trailer over the next several hours, climbing on the top of the trailer, using power tools to remove panels from the top of the trailer, and dropping bundles of drugs from the top of the trailer to the ground.  This process continued until 4:45 a.m. on June 3, 2020.

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Before sunrise, the three individuals left the warehouse.  Agents followed both vehicles until they split up and went in different directions.  Agents following the pickup truck requested the assistance of the Clayton County Police Department who conducted a traffic stop.  During a search of the truck, law enforcement found multiple black trash bags in the truck bed containing a total of 77 bundles of narcotics consistent with the bundles agents witnessed being removed from the trailer.  Several of the bundles had cords attached to them, consistent with narcotics that are hidden in hard to reach voids found in semi-trailers, which are used as a method to retrieve the narcotics.  In total, the bundles weighed 52 kilograms.

Simultaneously, agents followed the individual in the car to a house located in Ellenwood, Georgia.  Once that individual arrived at the house, agents watched as he pulled into the garage, staying at the house for approximately ten minutes, long enough to unload anything stored in the trunk of the vehicle.  HSI subsequently obtained a federal search warrant for the house and searched it on the afternoon of June 3, 2020.  It was unoccupied and contained no furniture.  However, in a closet near the front door, law enforcement found 66 black bundles of methamphetamine similar to the bundles found during the stop of the pickup truck.  The bundles weighed approximately 51.45 kilograms.

HSI also obtained a federal search warrant for the trailer located at the warehouse.  It was searched on June 4, 2020.  Inside hidden compartments in the roof, law enforcement found 446 bundles of methamphetamine similar to those previously seized, weighing 315.5 kilograms.  In all, between the three searches, HSI seized 418.95 kilograms of methamphetamine

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Juan Carlos Torres-Carranza, 28, and Luis Pineda-Soto, 26, both of Michoacan, Mexico, who were both present in the United States illegally at the time of their crimes, were convicted of conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with the intent to distribute on March 22, 2021 after pleading guilty.  U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones sentenced each of them on June 22, 2021, to five years, three months in prison for their role in the conspiracy, followed by five years of supervised release.