DEA investigators seized over 1,300 pounds of wax candles laced with methamphetamine from a New Jersey warehouse Tuesday night. Federal authorities say the candles were going to be turned into crystal meth worth approximately $1 million. Five people were arrested, and officials said the method of concealment in this bust was particularly creative.
"DEA has seen drugs smuggled in numerous ways: concealed in puppies, lollipops, furniture, and produce," DEA Special Agent-in-charge James Hunt said. "But secreting a million dollars worth of methamphetamine in wax candles of various shapes is shocking. This seizure signifies that drug trafficking organizations are determined to create a stronghold of meth users in the Northeast."
See above for the "various shapes" to which Agent-in-charge Hunt alluded.
The amount of crystal meth yielded would have been around 60 kilos, according to a NY Post source.
According to the U.S. Attorney's office, earlier this month federal and local law enforcement learned that one Gustin Zamora-Vega was interested in finding a space large enough to "store and convert a large quantity of methamphetamine into crystal form."
An undercover officer showed Zamora-Vega an apartment in Yonkers at first, but, the complaint states, Zamora-Vega didn't think the ventilation was satisfactory—and he also wanted a space he could drive into. A warehouse in NJ fit the bill, and, on August 29th, Zamora-Vega allegedly called the undercover, saying a huge shipment of meth, in the form of wax candles, had arrived in Long Island.
The agent later met Zamora-Vega at a NJ hotel, where he says he saw the candles, and then traveled to the warehouse with suspects Cindy Carrillo, Orlando Alcantara, Santos Minajrez and Jose Luis Gonzalez-Solis. From the press release:
The defendants continued to discuss with the [undercover] topics such as how they intended to begin converting the Meth Candles to crystal meth; that they would stay in the NJ Warehouse until the process was completed; that they would need additional equipment; and that they expected it would take them from August 29, 2017, until September 2, 2017, to complete the process of converting the Meth Candles to crystal meth.
Alcantara stated that two fans, one on each side of the NJ Warehouse, would need to be uncovered before they began converting the Meth Candles to crystal meth. In response, Gonzalez-Solis stated that only one fan needed to be uncovered, since they would only be converting the Meth Candles to crystal meth in that area of the NJ Warehouse.
A grill that the undercover agent brought to the warehouse was deemed inadequate, so Minjarez was allegedly dispatched to buy a new one.
Among the items found in the defendants' vehicle were "two propane tanks, multiple gallons of water, at least one 'River Grill,' pots and pans, metal spoons and Tupperware," according to the complaint.
The five suspects were arrested and each charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 500 grams and more of mixtures and substances containing methamphetamine. If found guilty, the charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison.