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Meth bust is largest since '96
Pinestraw business suspected drug front
mares jose castro
Jose Castro Mares - photo by Submitted
Two men remained in custody Tuesday after what authorities say was the largest local methamphetamine bust in 13 years.

Bond has not been set for 37-year-old Joaquin “Chicago” Ayala, a spokeswoman at the Forsyth County Jail said.

Ayala was arrested Friday by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and charged with trafficking methamphetamine and possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.

Sheriff’s Investigator Scotty Spriggs said Ayala could face additional charges, noting that the suspect is a “previously deported aggravated felon.”

Authorities also think Ayala has been supplying drugs in states along the Eastern seaboard.

Spriggs said Ayala has refused to provide authorities with an address, but they know he has been living in Cumming.

The charges against Ayala were the result of a months-long investigation and the April 1 arrest of Jose Castro Mares, Spriggs said.

Mares, 57, of 4920 Hopewell Road was charged with trafficking cocaine, the use of a communication device to facilitate a felony and trafficking marijuana.

Spriggs said authorities first started investigating Mares in October, after they learned that he was reportedly moving large amounts of marijuana in the county.

He said Mares ran a roadside pinestraw business, which authorities think he used as a front to smuggle drugs.

“He’d been doing this for quite some time,” Spriggs said. “It became prevalent he had the ability to move a large amount of marijuana and cocaine and we made minimal buys with an undercover officer.”

He said authorities eventually changed their operation to arrest Mares and “close the deal out.”

Sheriff’s Lt. Col. Gene Moss said investigators have found evidence linking Mares to known gang members.

Spriggs said authorities think Ayala was supplying Mares with the drugs.

“It was a substantial arrest to curtail large amounts of methamphetamine and cocaine coming into the county, that’s for sure,” Spriggs said.

Moss said after arresting Mares, investigators set up a deal to buy two pounds of meth and five pounds of marijuana from Ayala, the street value of which is more than $100,000.

“This is the largest meth bust in one deal we’ve seen in Forsyth County since 1996,” Moss said. “He was one of the top-level suppliers in this area.”

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