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3 sentenced in large marijuana bust
Hall SWAT team involved in arrests
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Three men convicted of possessing 1,572 pounds of marijuana, worth $3.1 million, were sentenced Thursday on those charges after pleading guilty in June, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Two of the men, who are from Mexico but lived in metro Atlanta, were delivering the drugs to a Gainesville warehouse in April when they were arrested, authorities said. The third man, Angel Zamudio-Martinez, was arrested later.

The investigation began several weeks before that on information developed by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which led investigators to expect a tractor-trailer would arrive in the 1700 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard carrying a large quantity of drugs.

“On its face, the truck contained pallets of produce, containing peppers, cactus and cilantro. Inside several of the pallets were what you see here,” Hall County Sheriff’s Lt. Scott Ware said at a press conference in April flanked by 106 sealed packages containing marijuana.

The men were convicted June 29 on the charge of conspiracy to possess marijuana with the intent to distribute.

Each defendant will be deported to Mexico at the end of his sentence.

Jose Luis Chavez-Morfin, 43, of Duluth was sentenced to five years, 10 months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release.

Zamudio-Martinez, 54, was sentenced to four years, two months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.

Marco Ortiz-Barajas, 19, of Douglasville was sentenced to three years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.

Three other men also were arrested in April and their cases are being handled in Hall County court: Juventino Morfin-Mendoza, 38, of Duluth; Jose Macias-Sanchez, 45, of Duluth; and Calvin Elwood Gearhart, 47, of Wichita, Kan.

“Today’s sentences are a reminder that drug trafficking carries with it serious consequences and that no community is immune from its presence or its potentially destructive effects,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said.

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and members of the Gainesville-Hall County Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad.

Agencies involved with the arrests include the Hall County Sheriff’s SWAT Team, Gainesville Police Department and Hall County Sheriff’s Office uniform patrol divisions, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, FBI Safe Streets Task Force, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Georgia State Patrol and Georgia State Patrol Aviation Division.

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