47 pounds of meth seized in Hart County

  • Sunshot by Grayson Williams — Pictured from left to right are, Inv. Chris Carroll, deputy Josh Fowler, Sheriff Mike Cleveland, District Attorney Parks White, Inv. Kevin White and Inv. Joseph Haley with 47 pounds of methamphetamine disguised as candles.
    Sunshot by Grayson Williams — Pictured from left to right are, Inv. Chris Carroll, deputy Josh Fowler, Sheriff Mike Cleveland, District Attorney Parks White, Inv. Kevin White and Inv. Joseph Haley with 47 pounds of methamphetamine disguised as candles.
  • Sunshot by Grayson Williams — Methamphetamine crystals occupy the inside of what appears to be a candle.
    Sunshot by Grayson Williams — Methamphetamine crystals occupy the inside of what appears to be a candle.
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The Hart County Sheriff's Office seized 47 pounds of candles on Sept. 11 — candles made of methamphetamine.
The bust set a new mark for the biggest meth bust in the sheriff's office history. The 47 pounds of meth came straight from Mexico and authorities believe it was intended for distribution throughout Northeast Georgia.
Earlier this week, a shipping courier contacted the Hart County Sheriff’s Office after it intercepted a package mailed from Mexico and destined for a home in Bowersville addressed to a “Mike Lopez”, according to a press release from the sheriff’s office.
Arturo Rabiela Gonzalez, 19, of 100 Dairy Lane, Bowersville, was later arrested and charged with trafficking methamphetamine (level III, more than 400 grams) after members of the sheriff’s office, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) and District Attorney’s Office secured an anticipatory search warrant for the residence.
The shipping courier, which was alerted after an x-ray of the package, handed over the methamphetamine to the DEA, which used a “mock up delivery truck” to transport the drugs in a “controlled delivery” to the intended recipient, according to the release.
Once at the Bowersville residence, the occupants of the home reportedly denied Mike Lopez lived at the residence. Authorities entered the home, having secured the search warrant in advance, and discovered other empty packages addressed to the same person, according to the release.
Occupants then identified Gonzalez as the owner of the empty packages and had the occupants contact Gonzalez, who directed them to take delivery of the package on his behalf. Gonzalez was later arrested at the home that day.
Officials told The Hartwell Sun that Gonzalez had over stayed his Visa for more than a year now, and was in the country illegally.
The meth being trafficked was intended for distribution throughout Northeast Georgia and had an estimated street value of $440,000, authorities said.
The package was identified by the shipping courier service after a periodic, random x-ray of the package, authorities said.
Officials said the "candles" are created by taking candle molds and filling them with liquid methamphetamine, waiting till they harden then painting them to disguise the product.
The disguised meth was in varying shapes and paint colors. One portrayed the Nativity scene, while another was in the shape of a horse head, imitating a carousel.
Once opened, meth crystals were evident. Authorities said the suspected drugs field tested positive instantly.
Hart County Sheriff Mike Cleveland thanked the DEA, ICE, the investigative division of his office and District Attorney Parks White for working together to secure an arrest. Cleveland said White was instrumental in obtaining the search warrant and giving the department guidance.
“The sheriff’s office did a great job and we’re very grateful to get the poison off the streets,” White said. “People have no idea how terribly addictive and destructive this (methamphetamine) is. I would say 75 to 80 percent of all crime we deal with on a daily basis is drug related in one way or another.”