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EMC bust possibly connected to Mexican cartel

EAST MONTGOMERY COUNTY- On Thursday, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit led a multi-agency raid at an East Montgomery County residence they say was a “safe house” for drug dealers who may be linked to a Mexican cartel.

It was mid-afternoon when the agencies converged on the single-wide mobile home on Old Coffin Lane off of Pickering Road, northwest of New Caney. The dead-end street is shorter than a city block and has several mobile homes.

Investigators removed an estimated 16 ounces, or 1 pound, of “ice” methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth, along with two vehicles, drug paraphernalia and some brand new items believed to be ill gotten gain.

At the current wholesale rate of $1,200 per ounce, the value of the confiscated methamphetamine would be just under $20,000. If it were “cut,” or diluted, and divided for individual sale, the value would jump to between $25,500 and around $29,000.

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Lt. Philip Cash, commanding officer of the SIU, said his agency was contacted Wednesday evening regarding the drug arrests of three Hispanic males in Lafayette Louisiana who had ties to Montgomery County.

The men were arrested with 1 kilogram of ice, Cash said.

“We received information that one of the suspects had an address in Montgomery County,” he said.

Working in conjunction with the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the SIU found that the Old Coffin Lane address was connected to one of the suspects. Once they had probable cause, investigators obtained a search warrant for the mobile home.

“During the search, we recovered methamphetamine that was hidden in the wall,” Cash said. “We had to rip a plate off of the wall to find it.”

There were brand new items inside the residence, but they were not furniture or house wares. The only creature comforts were three air mattresses on the bare floors, and the appliances that were furnished by the property owner, Cash said.

The mobile home is a rental. After speaking with the landlord, who has several rental properties, investigators are confident he has no ties to the criminal organization. Neighbors told investigators they were under the impression construction workers lived in the residence.

“There were minimal everyday living items in the house,” he said. “To us it’s a “stash house,” of “safe house.”

The mobile home appeared to be used as a dropping off point, with floor jacks and other tools that might be used to remove well-hidden drugs from a vehicle.

“One of the vehicles seized in Louisiana had a compartment underneath it,” Cash said. “The vehicle had to be lifted to reach it and there was a heavy floor jack underneath.”

In addition to suspicious tools inside, there were two incriminating vehicles parked in front of the trailer. Investigators believe the Hyundai Elantra and Subaru wagon were used to smuggle drugs because of modifications to the vehicles.

“We found hidden compartments and some seats were cut where they could hide kilograms,” Cash said.

The vehicles, registered in Arizona, were seized and taken to the county’s impound lot in Conroe. One was registered to a man arrested in the Louisiana bust.

Law enforcement also seized two vehicles in Louisiana. One of those was registered to a Houston address and the other to an address in Montgomery County.

DEA officials told the SIU that all three suspects arrested in Lafayette were illegal immigrants from Mexico.

“We haven’t linked it to the Mexican cartels yet, but it’s something we’re looking at,” Cash said. “It’s definitely a multi-state drug trafficking organization.”

No arrests were made in Montgomery County, as of yet, but Cash said additional arrests are anticipated.

“The case will be forwarded to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office and to the Federal Prosecutor in Lafayette,” he said. “We are working with federal and state agencies.”

The SIU received on-location assistance Thursday from the MCSO patrol division, Conroe Police Department Narcotics Division and the Pct. 4 Constable’s Office. The DEA and Houston Police Department Narcotics Division assisted in the investigation.

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