CHEROKEE COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – Five people were arrested after a multi-agency search warrant stemming from a two-year investigation in Rusk on Tuesday around 6:30 a.m., the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said.

The warrant was served by CCSO, Homeland Security Investigations, Jacksonville Police Department, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Smith County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division and Texas DPS SWAT.

The property where the search warrant was conducted is on CR 1316 off Highway 84 East.

Authorities said that the search led to the discovery of a methamphetamine conversion lab where people were allegedly converting methamphetamine from a liquid form to a crystallized form called “crystal ice methamphetamine.”

Officials said that methamphetamine is often transported in liquid and powder forms because those are easier to conceal and smuggle across the border, then converted into a crystal form and sold in the U.S.

Cherokee County Sheriff Brent Dickson said that the property was in a “quiet, country neighborhood.”

Throughout the search, officials found about 540 grams of methamphetamine along with firearms and money. Captain L. Smith, with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, said that the methamphetamine is valued at about $300-$600 per ounce.

Anticipated charges for four of the people arrested include conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. One person will be charged only for immigration violations.

Those arrested were identified as:

  • Victor Toledo
  • Ezequiel Perez-Gonzalez
  • Maria Perez-Gonzalez
  • Pedro Perez (immigration violation)
  • Matthew Morris

Dickson said that all of the suspects have ties to Mexico.

Mugshots from Tuesday’s drug bust in Cherokee County, courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security

According to Cherokee County officials, 10 children ranging from ages 1 to 14 were removed from the property and placed in the custody of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Authorities said that the children were not in the same building as the meth conversion lab, but that there were about six different houses on the property.

“It’s taking drugs off the streets, its removing the element that they are all using and hope to slow down drug use, burglaries, thefts and force them to go anywhere else,” said Dickson.

“It’s a big win for the sheriff’s office, it’s a big win for Sheriff Dickson, it’s a big win for the citizens of Cherokee County,” said Smith.

According to Dickson, this was one of the largest drug busts he has seen in the area.

“This is a huge win for small town East Texas,” he said.

The five people remain at the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office pending federal charges, Dickson said. Further arrests are anticipated by the sheriff’s office.

“Just like everywhere else in this country, we have our issues but we’re fighting them. We’re trying to make this a place that we can all live, work and play in a safe environment,” Dickson said.