Illegal Alien Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Meth in Candles to Hart County

By MJ Kneiser, WLHR

A Mexican illegal, arrested last year in one of Hart County’s biggest drug busts, will spend the next 13 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

District Attorney Parks White said that this week, 20-year old Arturo Gonzalez plead guilty to trafficking methamphetamine in Hart County Superior Court.

Arturo Gonzalez was sentenced to 13 years in prison and will be deported to Mexico when released.

Gonzalez’s arrest came in September 2019 when Sheriff Mike Cleveland said his office received a tip that a large shipment of meth was being delivered to an address in Bowersville.

“We got a tip from Homeland Security that a package was on its way to an address in Hart County. We coordinated with the DEA and intercepted the drugs before we got to his house. DEA had a mock delivery truck and we went to deliver the package and he wasn’t there. The woman who answered the door said there was no one lived there by that name,” Cleveland said.

The package was addressed to a Mike Lopez at 100 Dairy Lane in Bowersville and contained wax religious candles.

Cleveland said he was able to get a search warrant for that address and that’s when investigators discovered similar items inside the home addressed to a Mike Lopez.

At that point, investigators decided to use a different tactic to trap Gonazalez by calling him posing as the delivery service.

“We actually placed a phone call to him and told him his package was there,” Cleveland said. “He actually said, ‘Oh yeah set it inside and I’ll be right there,’ and he was. He was right there and we made the arrest without incident.”

Inside the package was 48 pounds of methamphetamine, but according to Cleveland, the drug was packaged in such a way that the average person would never have known it was meth.

“It was made into whole huge candles. Some of the candles weighing a half-pound, some weighing six or seven pounds covered with a thin layer of paint. They even had wicks in them. One even had a painting of a Baby Jesus on it, but it was solid meth,” he said.

Gonzalez was sentenced to 17 years probation after he serves his term in prison and was fined a million dollars.

The DA said once he’s released from the Department of Corrections, Gonzalez will be deported back to Mexico.

He is banished from the State of Georgia, except Clayton County, and if he re-enters the country it will violate a special term of his probation and he will be returned to the Department of Corrections.