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2 Men Arrested, 1,900 Pounds of Drugs Seized in Raid

Narcotics officers raided a complex of shacks and trailers in a remote area west of Hesperia and seized 1,900 pounds of methamphetamine with a projected street value of $190 million, authorities said Thursday.

The raid, which was carried out Wednesday, culminated a two-day investigation that started in Los Angeles. It was the largest seizure of methamphetamine in department history, said Los Angeles Police Lt. Frank Valdez.

The drug laboratory had operated for several months, Valdez said. Because of the size of the operation, investigators speculate that the methamphetamine, known as speed, was intended for drug wholesalers in the Los Angeles area.

Two suspects were arrested and booked at Parker Center on suspicion of manufacturing a controlled substance. Each was being held in lieu of $500,000 bail.

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Gabriel Rubalcava, 51, who was believed to be in charge of the drug lab operations, was arrested at the scene, where he apparently lived in a trailer. Jorge Cerpas, 27, was arrested at his residence in San Bernardino. Police say he provided the chemicals needed to manufacture the drug, Valdez said.

Valdez said the size of the operation was surprising, especially in light of how quickly the investigation panned out.

“We had no inkling it would be anything that large,” he said. “We’ve been on cases for three months and have come up empty.”

The lab was alongside a dirt road in the unincorporated San Bernardino County community of Phelan.

“There were no neighbors, no running water and no electricity--they had generators coming out the ying-yang,” Valdez said. “What we had were a bunch of little shacks made out of things like garage doors and dilapidated trailers.”

Narcotics officers found some of the methamphetamine buried in plastic bags. But it was not until forensic scientists examined beakers several hours later that they discovered the bulk of their haul: liquid methamphetamine that was one step away from being turned into white, powdery crystals for street distribution.

Other arrests are expected, Valdez said.


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