On Jan. 9, the two units arrested five Marietta men on charges of drug possession, resisting arrest and having false identification.
“Cobb Sheriff deputies were in full SWAT uniform with ‘SHERIFF’ displayed on their chest,” the warrant said, as the officers entered the home on Favorwood Drive, south of Windy Hill Road and east of Austell Road.
District Attorney Vic Reynolds said complaints to the narcotics unit about illicit activity can come in anonymously from residents or as tips from other law enforcement agencies.
Typical investigative methods, like surveillance or sifting through suspects’ trash, are used to gather enough probable cause for a magistrate judge to grant a search warrant, Reynolds said.
If the warrant is granted, Reynolds said the unit has 10 days to draw up a plan and execute the legal search.
At the time of the Jan. 9 bust, a 2002 Cadillac was parked on the road in front of the home.
Two people in the car “were identified as being involved in possible criminal activity by MCS agents conducting pre-surveillance on the target address,” the warrant said.
According to police reports, a plastic bag containing 0.1 grams of a substance that Cobb Police said tested positive for methamphet-amine was found on the passenger-side floor board where Nahum Rodriguez was sitting.
Rodriguez was arrested on felony charges of possession of methamphetamine and released the next day on a $5,000 bond.
No cash or guns were found by police in the home or vehicle during the raid.
Guy Sharpe has been a defense lawyer for 34 years and has a firm at 244 Roswell St. near Marietta National Military Cemetery.
Sharpe said law enforcement often uses confidential informants as the basis for obtaining a search warrant.
Many times, informants are unreliable people who have been arrested and want help in their own pending criminal case, so they exaggerate “mere suspicion,” Sharpe said.
The narcotics SWAT team bust
On Jan. 9, Dustin Castillo was in the backyard as the SWAT team approached, the warrant said.
Although the warrant said Castillo was told to stop and lie on the ground, he allegedly fled into the woods.
Castillo was arrested on misdemeanor charges of obstructing law enforcement officers. He was given a $2,000 bond and released the next day.
According to the warrant, when the SWAT unit entered the home, Desiderio Sosa, originally from El Savador, resisted the officers.
“Deputies Pruett, Barber and Gorski had to physically subdue (Sosa) while he was pushing, kicking and pulling,” the warrant said.
Sosa, who appeared to have many facial bruises in his jail booking photo, was arrested on felony charges of obstructing law enforcement and was released the next day on a $5,000 bond.
The warrant said officers found two digital scales, 46 grams of marijuana, 3.9 grams of cocaine and 1.8 grams of methamphetamine in various locations inside a bedroom.
The substances tested positive in an initial field test, the warrant said, before being sent to a crime lab for further testing.
Saul Montelongo was arrested on three felony charges for possession of methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana. He was released two days later on a $10,000 bond.
The Jan. 9 bust was small compared to the amount of drugs the MCS unit generally seizes, Reynolds said, but any time there is illegal contraband obtained it is considered “successful.”
“Obviously the reality is you don’t know what is behind that door,” Reynolds said. “On occasion, not often, they go into the home and find nothing.”
In 2013, the MCS unit seized more than $42 million worth of drugs, Reynolds said. The majority was confiscated from busts using search warrants.
Local lawyer fights unjustified searches
While searching the house, the warrant said officers found fake identification cards belonging to Maicon Cruz, originally from Mexico.
“The Permanent Resident Card was recognized by a Cobb County Sheriff’s Deputy, who previously worked as an immigration enforcement deputy, as a fraudulent Green Card,” the warrant said.
According to the warrant, Cruz also possessed a Social Security Card that was determined to be a fake by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Cruz was arrested on two felony counts of possessing false government identification and is being held without bond by ICE.
Sharpe said the small quantity of drugs found in the recent bust indicates more of a personal use, since drug dealers would typically store money and guns at the site.
As a defense attorney, Sharpe said he often fights illegal searches and the men arrested on Jan. 9 should challenge the possible false information that was the basis for the warrant.
If the warrant is overturned, then the evidence is thrown out, and “that is the end of the case,” Sharpe said.
Reynolds, who was a former prosecutor in Fulton, said, “Cobb is in a better position than most other counties in metro Atlanta,” because area law enforcement takes an “assertive position” to catch drug dealers and imprison them.
“There is a consequence to pay for what you do,” said Reynolds, and the “vigilance” keeps Cobb in a better position.
Sharpe said it would require a sea change for “conservative” Georgia to make marijuana legal, as it is for all uses in Colorado and Washington, or even for medical uses as it is in a host of other states.
“The statistics are there that alcohol is more of a burden on society than marijuana,” Sharpe said. “The war on drugs has been more of a political campaign than it has been based on science in the use of marijuana.”