published Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

More than 500 pounds of pot seized in Whitfield County

Authorities seized over 500 pounds of marijuana, guns, a BMW and more than $14,000 in cash after raiding a Whitfield County home on Monday.
Authorities seized over 500 pounds of marijuana, guns, a BMW and more than $14,000 in cash after raiding a Whitfield County home on Monday.
Photo by Contributed Photo.
  • photo
    Florentino Hernandez-Padron, 41, is charged with trafficking in marijuana.
    Contributed Photo

  • photo
    Benjamin Lopez-Zapata, 46, is charged with trafficking in marijuana.
    Contributed Photo

DALTON, Ga. — Authorities seized more than 500 pounds of marijuana worth nearly $1 million, guns, a BMW and more than $14,000 in cash Monday in a Whitfield County home raid.

Florentino Hernandez-Padron, 41, and Benjamin Lopez-Zapata, 46, were arrested after authorities intercepted a large package of marijuana shipped from Brownsville, Texas, to Ringgold, Ga. Both men are charged with trafficking in marijuana and are being held without bond, authorities said.

Capt. Rick Swiney with the Whitfield County Sheriff's Department called the action "a very substantial seizure."

"It's hard to say how it compares to what we usually take in a year -- some years we don't get as much and some years we get lucky," Swiney said.

The marijuana would have sold on the street for about $800,000 to $1 million, he said.

The investigation that led to the bust began in Brownsville last week when narcotics detection dogs indicated a large package at a UPS center might contain drugs. The package was addressed to a Whitfield County resident.

When officials opened the package, they found 270 pounds of marijuana inside. U.S. Customs agents contacted Whitfield authorities and began a joint investigation.

Customs agents flew the package to the UPS Freight Center in Ringgold on Sunday. Monday morning, officers watched as two men picked up the package.

Hernandez-Padron and Lopez-Zapata were arrested after they took the package back to their home at 1053 Dawnville Road, authorities said.

When officers searched the brick house and surrounding area, they found 237 pounds of marijuana in an outbuilding. They also seized several guns, a 1999 BMW and $14,580 in cash.

Authorities believe the marijuana smuggling operation in Whitfield County began less than six months ago, Swiney said. Hernandez-Padron, who is originally from Brownsville, came to the area to organize and coordinate the shipments, he said.

Hernandez-Padron had received two previous shipments of 250 to 300 pounds each, Swiney said.

He said the drugs likely were distributed primarily in the Atlanta area.

The Tunnel Hill Police Department, the Lookout Mountain Drug Task Force and the Georgia State Patrol assisted in the investigation.

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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inquiringmind said...

legalize it and tax it - the only solution to control it that makes sense after almost a century trying to stop it.

September 14, 2011 at 6:58 a.m.
jxlanger said...

Just one more reason we need to crack down on illegals.

September 14, 2011 at 8:33 a.m.
twharr said...

I agree with you Inquiringmind...I wonder how much the state and federal government has spent on fighting marijuana trafficing?? Marijuna is never going to not find its way to our country. Also, what's worse?? Being stoned behind the wheel or drunk?

September 14, 2011 at 9:51 a.m.
southbeachjerry said...

Marijuana is bad news. Stoned or drunk driving are equally bad as they both affect your judgement and reaction. I hate pot, I hate the smell, and I hate everything about this drug. Have a coke and a smile...

September 14, 2011 at 10:04 a.m.
dao1980 said...

southbeachjerry, coke is way harder on your whole body than spiount smoke is on your lungs.

Cocaine will rot your sinuses and wreak havoc on your circulatory system over a very short period of time.

I know it makes folks feel exceptionally gratified to enforce personal convictions and beliefs in order to "save" others from themselves, but the farce of "drug control" is just another way we empower criminals while starving our economy.

I will say don't have coke if your smart, but in reality you should be able to do whatever you want to your own body.

(I know you meant coca cola... but that's really not much better for you either)

September 14, 2011 at 10:15 a.m.
UjokinRIGHTQ said...

The funny thing is, many in LE no longer believe in the war on drugs and have actually gone into the drug business themselves either prior to or upon retirement. Mostly the marijuanna trade(California). Maybe they're just trying to get rid of the competition?

September 14, 2011 at 11:45 a.m.
xyzyra said...

This so called WAR ON DRUGS has forever tarnished, tainted and corrupted America's law enforcement. Right up there and along with the so called WAR ON WH*RES. Better known as the WAR ON PROSTITUTION. Some of the greatest consumers of both are the very ones who are suppose to be fighting them.

September 14, 2011 at 8:10 p.m.
conservwoman2 said...

Hats OFF to the OFFICERS that MADE this arrest- Bet they put their lives on the line in doing this.

September 18, 2011 at 2:32 p.m.
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