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Man sentenced to 4 years in case involving meth hidden in paint at Buford home

A Florida man sentenced to four years in federal prison in a methamphetamine case claimed he was house sitting at a Buford home when another person showed up with liquid methamphetamine mixed with paint, according to court documents.

Gerardo Valencia-Cervantes was sentenced Jan. 12 after pleading guilty to possession with intent to distribute at least 500 grams of methamphetamine. U.S. District Court Judge Richard W. Story, granted him credit for time served since Feb. 3, 2021, and ordered him to serve his sentence in a California facility.

The Drug Enforcement Administration searched a home Feb. 3, 2021, in the 4,000 block of Peachtree Drive in Buford. The Gainesville/Hall Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad and Homeland Security Investigations assisted in the search.

The DEA found “numerous containers filled with methamphetamine oil, as well as containers filled with a mixture of paint and methamphetamine oil,” according to the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office said the meth oil recovered was enough for 60 kilograms of meth with an estimated street value of $6 million.

Valencia-Cervantes, of Deland, Florida, and Ismael Marin-Urbina, of Jonesboro, were arrested at the home and charged with trafficking methamphetamine.

According to a sentencing memo, the two men were found in a back room at the house, and DEA agents seized roughly 20 gallons of solution “in the process of conversion into usable methamphetamine.”

A confidential source had told the DEA days earlier that a large quantity of meth was dropped off in a mobile home park in Hall County and that people “were actively cooking at that location,” according to the sentencing memo.

Valencia-Cervantes’ attorney, Richard Holcomb, wrote in the sentencing memo that his client had worked in roofing and construction and met Marin-Urbina through his employment.

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The Drug Enforcement Administration's Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement Team found numerous containers filled with methamphetamine oil, as well as containers filled with a mixture of paint and methamphetamine oil, at a Buford house. - photo by Hall County Sheriff's Office

An unidentified third party reached out to Valencia through Facebook Messenger about house sitting for a few days, and Valencia asked Marin-Urbina to join him, according to court documents.

“Mr. Valencia and Marin were at the house for two days,” according to the sentencing memo. “A third individual brought liquid methamphetamine mixed with paint in buckets to the residence, and Mr. Valencia was told he would be taught how to make the methamphetamine.”

Holcomb, who did not return a request for comment, wrote that Valencia was not told previously about meth and had not been involved in any drug deals.

“The person who met Mr. Valencia the first time put water in the buckets, and then told Mr. Valencia to ‘let it be,’” according to the sentencing memo.

It is unclear from court documents if any additional people were arrested in connection to the case.

Holcomb argued in the memo that Valencia-Cervantes “agreed to participate in what he might have surmised was a potentially criminal activity,” but had no information on how the deals would go down.

Valencia-Cervantes was offered money for his part but “was arrested prior to the completion of the offense,” Holcomb wrote.

Marin-Urbina was charged in a Hall County Superior Court on a reduced charge of possession of meth.

He was sentenced to time served September 2019 after a plea before Superior Court Judge C. Andrew Fuller.

Marin-Urbina’s defense attorney, Jason Kesser, said he was surprised to see the federal prosecution only take Valencia-Cervantes. 

“I guess they just didn’t think that my guy was greatly involved (or) had a lot of knowledge of the situation,” Kesser said.

Kesser did not know any information on the process involved with the meth mixed with paint.

Upon release, Valencia-Cervantes will be on supervised release for five years.