Equivalent Of More Than A Quarter-Million 'Doses'
HIDDEN IN TIRES — This stock image shows drug packages being extracted from tires. Getting the 144 pounds of meth Jackson County Drug Task Force detectives and other law enforcement officials recently seized was a bit more complicated than this.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2019
How do you put in perspective the amount of methamphetamine the COMBAT-funded Jackson County Drug Task Force seized from a Kansas City home one week ago?
The weight? 144 pounds!
The street value? $12,468,816!
Maybe this is the number that matters most: 261,504 “doses!”
Dan Cummings did the calculations. The Task Force’s Officer-In-Charge explained the average “hit of meth” is one-quarter gram—“maybe up to a half-gram for someone who has a high tolerance”—and 144 pounds equates to 65,376 grams. “Take that times four and you get more than a quarter-million doses,” Cummings said.
COMBAT Director Vince Ortega pointed out, “That is a tremendous amount of meth the Task Force and Independence police kept from getting out onto our streets.” (COMBAT funds the Task Force at an annual cost of around $2.2 million.)
More Meth Seized In A Day Than All Of 2018
The Task Force has never recovered so much methamphetamine at one time. (In all of 2018, the Task Force, compromised of detectives from various Jackson County Police Departments, seized 136 pounds of meth.)
This case originated with the recently formed Independence Police Street Crimes Unit, which called for the Task Force’s assistance when the scope of its investigation went beyond Independence’s city limits. The case has now landed in federal court. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri announced earlier this week that Jorge A. Rodriguez-Gonzalez had been charged with possession of “500 grams or more of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.”
According to a U.S. Attorney’s news release, a confidential source tipped off Independence police detectives about an individual involved in distributing methamphetamine in Independence. This tip sparked an investigation that led the detectives to secure warrants to search a home in Independence, but they want to for their suspect to be on site before executing the warrant.
The Task Force was contacted to try and locate the suspect outside of Independence. “He was known to hang out at casinos,” Cummings said, “and, sure enough, that’s where we found him.”
Hidden In Tires
The Task Force put the suspect under surveillance, following him around the Kansas City area, then eventually back to the residence in Independence. The warrants were served, and the suspect arrested. Detectives then arranged what the U.S. Attorney’s Office called a “controlled buy” of one kilogram of methamphetamine from Rodriguez-Gonzalez. When he arrived to complete the buy, Rodriguez-Gonzalez had with him his wife and two children, a 6-year-old girl and 3-year-old boy. Officers on the scene confiscated a Glock handgun from his vehicle, and a police canine detected the presence of illegal drugs behind what appeared to be hidden compartments in the vehicle.
“That was on Thursday (Oct. 10), and when we questioned him you could tell he was really upset,” Cummings said. “He wouldn’t tell us anything. But you could see there had to be more to this.”
The Task Force had kept around-the-clock surveillance on Rodriguez-Gonzalez’s Kansas City residence. The Kansas City Police Narcotics Unit executed a search warrant on the property Friday, Oct. 11, securing it, while the Jackson County Drug Task Force, Independence detectives and an FBI special agent conducted the search.
Task Force detectives promptly found 471 grams of marijuana, some cash, a shot gun and an AK-style rifle. Then inside a shed on the property, they and the drug dog stepped over some Toyota trucks, wondering if the big stash of drugs they had expected to discover might be hidden behind the shed’s walls.
“When we moved the tires, we noticed, ‘Man, these are really heavy,’” Cummings said. “Up to that point we had found nothing—nothing relative to how the suspect had been acting when we arrested him. His agitation—how concerned he was—didn’t add up with how little we had found.”
But inside those tires, the Task Force found metal cannisters, which were wielded shut. When the containers were all eventually opened hours later at the Task Force’s headquarters, the detectives pulled form them 24 separate packages of white powder, each weighing approximately six pounds.
Lab tests confirmed the powder was methamphetamine.
A MATTER OF HOURS — Authorities believe the 144 pounds of meth seized from a Kansas City home Oct. 11 might have been within 24 hours of being parsed out for distribution and being sold on the streets throughout metropolitan area.
$28 Million Seized So Far
Cummings said the meth’s origins can be traced to a Mexican cartel. He suspects within 24 hours it would have been parsed out for widespread distribution in the Kansas City region.
“I don’t think anyone was going to sit on that much meth for very long,” Cummings continued. “This was far and away the biggest pile of meth I’ve ever seen. When it all gets tested, I think it’s going to come back 100% pure meth.
“And it usually gets cut before it finds its way out onto the streets—about a 50/50 mix. So, we might be talking about more than a half-million doses here.”
With this record-setting seizure, the Jackson County Drug Task Force has now exceeded $28 million in seized illegal drugs this year, already eclipsing what had been a record $16.1 million last year. Street value dollar amounts are based on The National Drug Control Strategy Supplement from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“Like I’ve said before, when we make seizures we might be preventing some teenagers from getting their first taste of meth or some other illegal drugs,” Cummings said. “I don’t know how you quantify something like that, but I know it’s something that drives us to do our work at the Task Force.”