Car crash in Wyoming leads to huge meth bust at Santa Clara warehouse

A car crash in Wyoming last month led federal agents across state lines to a Santa Clara warehouse believed to be used as a methamphetamine cooking and conversion site.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raided a Santa Clara warehouse on Aug. 3, in the 600 block of Martin Avenue, where they found a laboratory believed to be an “active methamphetamine conversion site,” according to court filings.

Marco Antonio Manriquez was charged with one count of distribution of a mixture or substance containing methamphetamine and aiding and abetting the same crime, authorities wrote in the complaint. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

The alleged leader of the drug ring, referred to as “Co-Conspirator One” in the filings, was also arrested but hasn’t been publicly identified in the court records.

On July 1, a Rawlins Police Department officer was investigating a single-vehicle collision on Interstate 80 in Rawlins, Wyo., and was speaking with the two people at the scene of the crash, court records show. Because of their “inconsistent statements” about their destination and purpose of travel, the officer told them a narcotics K-9 was going to inspect their vehicle. At that point, one of the vehicle’s occupants revealed there was a large amount of meth in the car. About 40 pounds of crystal meth was found hidden inside the trunk, according to the complaint.

In exchange for judicial consideration in the state of Wyoming, one of the car’s occupants told investigators they were transporting narcotics that had been picked up from the Martin Avenue warehouse location for several years throughout California and elsewhere and identified the head of the organization as “Co-Conspirator One.” They also said a “cook” works at the warehouse converting liquid methamphetamine to crystal meth. The informant’s identity is confidential and has been left out of court records.

On July 12, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation got a search warrant for four cellphones that were seized at the traffic stop, including a Samsung Galaxy phone that contained photos of trays of meth crystals and liquid with crystalline residue, according to the complaint.

On Aug. 2, the DEA conducted surveillance of the warehouse in Santa Clara and saw Manriquez and the alleged drug ringleader leave in a red Nissan Altima with a “white bag with honey bee emblems,” authorities said. They drove to Milpitas, where they gave the bag to the driver of a silver Chevrolet Equinox.

California Highway Patrol stopped the Equinox in Benicia and searched the vehicle, where it found more than 24 pounds of meth packaged in 11 Ziploc bags, according to the complaint. The driver of the Equinox was arrested.

The next day, agents detained Manriquez and the alleged drug ringleader as they were driving from the warehouse and executed a search warrant, discovering a methamphetamine conversion site “processed and unprocessed” meth.

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