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Four take pleas in federal meth case after authorities dismantle million-dollar conversion lab
Methamphetamine seized in conversion lab dismantling on Friday, September 15th, 2017.
Methamphetamine seized in conversion lab dismantling on Friday, September 15th, 2017.

Four people took plea deals in federal court this month on charges related to meth almost two years after authorities shut down a multimillion-dollar conversion lab.

Valentine Duarte-Vejar, Jose Maria Duarte Vejar, Mario Abad-Herrera and Ruben Abad-Herrera pleaded guilty between May 8 and May 21 to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

A federal grand jury indictment in June 2018 said the case involved at least 500 grams.

Valentine Duarte-Vejar also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm during a drug-trafficking crime. He was given the most serious custodial sentence of 15 years in a federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release.

Valentine Duarte-Vejar’s attorney Jeffrey Manciagli said his client expressed remorse, but the attorney did not otherwise comment on the disposition.

The Times was unable to reach the attorneys for Jose Vejar and Ruben Abad-Herrera, and Mario Abad-Herrera’s attorney Mildred Dunn did not return a request for comment.

Mario Abad-Herrera was sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release.

Ruben Abad-Herrera received 78 months in prison followed by a five-year supervised release, and Jose Vejar was given five years in prison and four years of supervised release.

All of them will receive credit for time served.

The Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement office said in September 2017 it had taken part in an investigation leading to a dismantled multimillion-dollar meth conversion lab, where liquid meth is turned to its crystal form.

The agents said that month the lab was found in Suches, in the mountains north of Dahlonega, where a handgun and 15 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine were seized.

“ARDEO agents processed approximately 300 pounds of environmental waste largely containing methamphetamine oil,” according to the drug enforcement office in September 2017. “Agents on scene estimated this lab was capable of producing a minimum of 25-50 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine at a time.”

The estimated street value of the 30 kilograms seized in the investigation is $3.2 million.