FRESNO, Calif. — Special agents from the Central Valley Marijuana Investigation Team (CVMIT), a California Department of Justice Task Force and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Initiative (HIDTA), teamed with federal investigators Thursday night to seize 176 pounds of crystal methamphetamine during the execution of a search warrant at a Madera home, one of the largest caches of the drug recently uncovered in the local area.
Inside the residence, located on the city's east side, the special agents discovered the methamphetamine, much of it in crystalized form, scattered throughout multiple rooms. They also found a lab used to convert liquid methamphetamine into its crystalized form. Initial estimates place the value of the seized methamphetamine at around $750,000, but authorities say it could exceed $1 million depending on what laboratory tests reveal about its purity.
In addition to the drugs, investigators also seized other evidence at the scene, including $58,000 in cash. The residence was vacant at the time of the search and no arrests were made overnight. However, authorities emphasize the investigation is continuing.
The ongoing probe is being conducted by CVMIT and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with substantial assistance provided by the California Highway Patrol (CHP). Other agencies participating on the Central Valley HIDTA include: the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Sheriff's Departments of Fresno, Madera and Tulare counties; the Fresno and Madera police departments; the California Department of Fish and Wildlife; the Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team (MADNET); the Fresno Methamphetamine Task Force (FMTF); and the Bureau of Forensic Services (BFS).
"There's no question this seizure has dealt a significant blow to the criminal organization behind this operation," said Tatum King, acting special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco, which oversees the agency's enforcement activities in the Central Valley. "Methamphetamine is a powerful drug that devastates entire communities. By keeping this dangerous contraband from reaching our streets, we've potentially saved untold lives."
"Methamphetamine is a serious threat to California's public health and safety, and is frequently trafficked by transnational criminal organizations," said California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. "This seizure highlights the importance of strong collaboration between the California Department of Justice and local, state and federal partners to dismantle these organizations and keep our communities safe."
Thursday's search warrant was the result of intelligence information provided by the CHP.
"This case is a prime example of the ongoing collaborative efforts between local, state and federal authorities to combat the illicit flow of narcotics through our communities," said Jason Daughrity, CHP canine unit sergeant.
Authorities say preliminary evidence indicates the methamphetamine in the residence was likely smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico in liquid form, then converted into its crystalized form at the Madera residence for subsequent distribution.
Thursday night's seizure came just hours after Attorney General Harris released a report finding that California has become a major gateway for methamphetamine being smuggled into the U.S. The report concludes Mexican organized crime groups smuggle an estimated 70 percent of the U.S. supply through California's border crossings.