Last May 20, federal agents began monitoring a small but well-known strip mall in South Beach after an informant told the Drug Enforcement Administration about an impending drug deal there.
The action began when DEA agents, accompanied by Miami Beach police officers, saw a man carrying a blue bag arrive on foot at the 1447 Alton Rd. strip mall and get into the front passenger side of a gray Pontiac parked in front of the 7-11. The man’s arrival signaled the start of the illicit methamphetamines transaction.
Busting the deal was a priority because federal authorities consider methamphetamines a dangerous drug whose use continues to spread across the country.
“Methamphetamine availability shows little sign of diminishing,” according to the DEA’s 2014 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary. “As cocaine availability remains lower than in previous years, methamphetamine has become a viable alternative for traffickers and users alike.”
Never miss a local story.
In Orlando, the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation announced the breakup of a meth ring involving at least 16 people, while border agents in Arizona said this week they have seen an increasing amount of methamphetamine coming in from Mexico.
An Associated Press story earlier this week noted that seizures of methamphetamine in Arizona so far this fiscal year have surpassed last year’s total and that most or all of it is coming from Mexico. U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized more than 3,240 pounds of meth between October and May, compared with 3,200 pounds for the entire last fiscal year, the story said.
DEA officials said arrests and methamphetamine seizures also have increased in South Florida. In 2013, there were 31 arrests related to meth, rising to 60 in 2014. In 2013 agents seized 25 kilos of meth while in 2014, the amount went up to 52.5 kilos, according to DEA spokeswoman Mia Ro.
The criminal complaint in the Miami Beach case said the drug deal involved at least six ounces of crystal meth.
After the man with the blue bag, later identified as José Lima, got into the car, agents noticed a woman sitting in the driver’s seat. The woman was later identified in court records as Lorena González.
After a few minutes, González drove the Pontiac out of the strip mall parking lot with Lima in the passenger seat, the DEA criminal complaint says.
DEA agents and police followed the vehicle. When González made a traffic violation, officers stopped her. While searching the vehicle, agents found six ounces of meth in six smaller bags in Lima’s blue bag.
Agents arrested González and Lima. When questioned by agents, González acknowledged the drug deal, according to the criminal complaint.
González and Lima are now awaiting trial.
Follow Alfonso Chardy on Twitter @AlfonsoChardy