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Contraband
04/13/2012

Authorities dismantle 2 major Los Angeles-area drug labs

More than 160 pounds of methamphetamine seized

Authorities dismantle 2 major Los Angeles-area drug labs
Authorities dismantle 2 major Los Angeles-area drug labs

LOS ANGELES — Federal and local investigators took one suspect into custody and seized more than 160 pounds of methamphetamine late Wednesday night following the discovery of two large-scale drug labs in separate residences in Van Nuys and Pomona.

The enforcement action is the result of an ongoing probe spearheaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in close collaboration with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the El Monte and Santa Monica police departments.

After obtaining state search warrants, investigators entered the unoccupied residences and found supplies of a chemical commonly used to refine methamphetamine, along with drying equipment, scales and packaging materials. It took specially-trained officers with LA IMPACT's Clandestine Lab Team until late Thursday to dismantle both operations and remove any hazardous materials.

"Drug making operations like this are a major public safety menace," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "First, stockpiling volatile chemicals in residential areas is a disaster waiting to happen. Then there's the threat posed by the meth itself. We've all seen how quickly this drug can destroy lives once users become caught in its powerful grip."

The drug labs were discovered after investigators stopped and questioned Alan Tamayo-Montoya, 25, a Mexican national suspected of serving as a runner for a methamphetamine trafficking ring. Tamayo was taken into custody in a Van Nuys mall parking lot. He was subsequently booked into the El Monte City Jail where he is being held on $2 million bond. Tamayo is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Los Angeles Criminal Court for possession of methamphetamine for sale.

"Over the past year, we have started to see an increasing number of drug labs in our area," said Briane M. Grey, DEA acting special agent in charge in Los Angeles. "By joining with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we will continue to identify and dismantle those threatening our communities with poisonous labs and drugs."

Investigators conservatively estimate the wholesale value of the seized methamphetamine at close to $2 million. The street value, though difficult to calculate precisely, would be at least three times that amount.