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12 indicted, nearly $1M drugs seized in investigation of cartel in Gainesville
Clockwise from Top Left: Ruben Ruiz, Erick Ruiz, Diego Cantero, Marco Cantero, Christel Ivester, Alejandro Avila.

GAINESVILLE — Nearly $1 million worth of drugs were seized and 11 people indicted following a 10-month investigation into a group known informally as the Lenox Park Cartel.

The investigation turned up 20 pounds of suspected methamphetamine, a half pound of cocaine and 6 pounds of marijuana, according to the Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad.

The drugs are valued at $896,000, $22,400 and $12,000, respectively.

Some 16 firearms and seven vehicles also were seized by authorities.

The group is believed to be responsible for the distribution of 8,800 pounds of meth during the course of the investigation, according to the Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad.

Several of the suspects “resided and/or furthered their criminal activity” in Lenox Park off of Athens Highway on the eastern side of Gainesville, according to a news release from MANS.

Eleven were arrested in September: Ruben Antonio Ruiz of Gainesville, noted by MANS as the leader of the cartel; Christel Ivester, 40, of Toccoa; and Diego Armando Cantera, 29, Marco Antonio Cantera, 27, Alejandro Avila, 26, William Suarez, 63, Carlos Alfredo Cantera-Cruz, 25, Victoria Carrera, 25, Edwin Barrera, 25, and Jose Ramon Cardenas, 22, all of Gainesville. They were indicted Jan. 12.

Another suspect, Erick Ruiz of Gainesville, still has an order for his arrest.

MANS, Homeland Security, Hall County Sheriff’s Office, the Gainesville Police Department and Stephens County Sheriff’s Office participated in the investigation.

Authorities have identified additional suspects and anticipate filing more charges.

Attorneys for Ruben Ruiz, Ivester and Cardenas declined to comment.

Attempts to reach legal representation for Diego Cantero, Marco Cantero, Avila, Suarez, Cantero-Cruz, Barrera and Garcia for comment were unsuccessful.

No representation was listed for Erick Ruiz in court records.

Attorney Steven Berne filed a motion for dismissal on Carrera’s charges claiming “outrageous government conduct” pertaining to a confidential informant in the case.

The motion filed on March 1 claims the confidential informant moved in with Carrera and “told Ms. Carrera that he wanted to make money by dealing drugs.”

The motion also claims Carrera was beaten and verbally assaulted.

MANS unit investigator Joe Amerling said he could not comment at this time regarding the motion due to its pending nature in federal court.

An attempt to reach MANS Lt. Scott Ware after hours was unsuccessful.