• Mother wanted in connection with multi-million meth operation

    By: Tom Regan

    Updated:

    LUMPKIN COUNTY, Ga. - Investigators are searching for a woman wanted in connection with a major meth operation in North Georgia.

    Last week, authorities seized $3 million worth of meth following a traffic stop in Lumpkin County. 

    The investigation led authorities to several homes, where they seized 30 kilograms of meth and arrested five people.

    Authorities said Tuesday, agents located a meth conversion lab on Antique Way consistent with a conversion lab discovered last week. Officials said both properties are linked to Clara Catarino Mendoza, 32. They believe she has fled with her two children.

    Investigators said they found seven empty 55-gallon drums at the second lab and three tested positive for meth. They also found semi-automatic rifles and handguns. 


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    Investigators said, in all, the drug ring produced and distributed more than 385 gallons of liquid meth that they converted into crystal meth. 

    "It does appear the liquid meth was shipped here. Where it came from, I can't tell you at this point in time," Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard said. 

    The sheriff said Mendoza worked at a fast food restaurant, but is now on the run with her children. She faces charges of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute meth. 

    "If I could send a message to Ms. Clara, I wish she would turn herself in before any other incident takes place for her safety and to tell her side of the story," he said.

    Jarrard said he suspects the drug ring set up shop in the backwoods of Lumpkin County to avoid detection.

    Residents said they are thankful that the operation has been shut down.

    "I've seen it (meth) take down a lot of good people, people who are good at heart. It will change them in six months," Chris Chestnut said.

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