Federal agents have arrested three North Georgia residents, saying they met at Cracker Barrels at East Ridge and Lookout Valley on several occasions to work out a large cocaine transaction.
The three did not know they were meeting with an undercover TBI agent.
Facing federal drug charges are Leticia Gonzalez, Marciso Nava Valdez and Jaime Mantilla Soberanis. Soberanis is also charged with re-entering the country after being deported.
Agents said the three are from the Conyers and Cartersville area.
According to an affidavit in the case, Ms. Gonzalez "proclaims to be a high-level cocaine trafficker who has been involved in narcotics trafficking in the Northern District of Georgia for approximately eight years."
The affidavit says on Aug. 20, a TBI special agent received information from a confidential source that Ms. Gonzalez and another individual were asking the CS to locate a source of supply for 25 kilograms of cocaine.
A meeting was arranged two days later at the Cracker Barrel , and Ms. Gonzalez and others arrived at 4:05 p.m. to meet with the CS.
The CS spoke with Ms. Gonzalez on Aug. 28 who confirmed that she wanted to purchase nine kilograms of cocaine. A meeting was arranged for the next day at the same Cracker Barrel.
The affidavit says on Aug. 29 at 3:35 p.m., Ms. Gonzalez and a white male arrived in a Camaro. Also, a red Toyota Camry pulled into the BB&T parking lot nearby. The Camaro then moved over by the Camry.
A heavy-set Hispanic man with a goatee exited the back seat of the Camry and got into the front passenger seat of the Camaro. The Camry then drove to the parking lot of a small nearby strip mall.
The TBI agent arrived at 3:50 p.m. and spoke with Ms. Gonzalez and the CS. A 4:04 p.m., the heavy-set Hispanic man exited the Camaro and walked back to the Camry. The affidavit says it appeared the occupants of the Camry were watching the front porch of the Cracker Barrel for any sign of law enforcement.
The TBI agent and Ms. Gonzalez then walked toward the parking lot to negotiate the drug deal. Ms. Gonzalez said she was prepared to purchase one kilogram of cocaine, then, if it was of good quality, she would return the same night with the remaining money for the remaining eight kilograms.
The agent told Ms. Gonzalez she had agreed to show him $225,000 in cash before he showed her any cocaine. He said he was taking a greater risk bringing cocaine to a meeting than she was bringing cash.
The agent terminated the negotiations and Ms. Gonzalez returned to the Camaro and left. The Camaro and Camry traveled to the Cloud Springs Road exit of I-75, where they stopped at a Shell gas station. Ms. Gonzalez got out of the Camaro and met with the front seat passenger of the Camry (Nava-Valdez). Then the heavy-set Hispanic man and the driver, also an Hispanic man, got out and joined in the conversation.
The agent said in the following days he engaged in conversations with Ms. Gonzalez in which she apologized and said she wanted to do business, but they needed "to develop trust." She said she could meet in Chattanooga on Sept. 5 or 6.
On Sept. 6, Ms. Gonzalez and her young son arrived at the East Ridge Cracker Barrel and met with the CS. The CS explained that the TBI agent was at a different Cracker Barrel - in Lookout Valley. Ms. Gonzalez and her son got into the car with the CS and drove to the Lookout Valley Cracker Barrel.
The affidavit says the TBI agent had five kilograms of cocaine and planned a "surprise flash" to Ms. Gonzalez. The cocaine had been obtained from the TBI Lab in Nashville.
The trio in the car met with the TBI agent who was on the front porch of the Cracker Barrel. Ms. Gonzalez said she had enough money to buy four kilograms of cocaine at the previously-discussed price of $25,000 per kilogram. The agent then called another TBI agent, who brought the five kilograms of cocaine to the Cracker Barrel in a duffle bag.
Ms. Gonzalez picked up one of the kilograms and said something in Spanish to her son. The son then told the agent, "That is how she likes them." The son asked if she bought the five kilograms and her clients in Georgia liked the cocaine could he supply 15 more kilograms. The agent said it would not be possible to do that.
The agent said it would be necessary for the money to be counted out before the deal could be completed. He said he wanted to be sure that no small bills were mixed in. It was agreed on a sale of four kilograms of cocaine for $100,000.
Last Monday at 3:55 p.m., Ms. Gonzalez and her son arrived at the Lookout Valley Cracker Barrel to buy three kilograms at $25,000 per kilo. Surveillance units saw the red 2009 Camry enter the parking lot next to the Camaro. The Camry was occupied by Nava-Valdez, the passenger, and Mantilla-Soberanis, the driver.
After a brief negotiation with Ms. Gonzalez, the TBI agent was led towards the Camaro to see the money. Mantilla-Soberanis got out of the Camry and walked toward him and Ms. Gonzalez. Ms. Gonzalez then said something to him in Spanish and he returned to the Camry.
The agent asked if Mantilla-Soberanis was to transport the cocaine, and Ms. Gonzalez said he was.
The TBI agent entered the Camaro and Ms. Gonzalez pointed to several boxes in the back seat. The agent counted $75,000.
A short time later, agents arrested the trio.