Three Drug Busts In Two Days


Agents from the Gila County Narcotics Task Force wrapped up a three-month investigation Tuesday with the arrest of two men they said have been specializing in the sale of narcotics, marijuana and other dangerous drugs.

They arrested Augustin Lopez of Phoenix and Roberto Huerto of Payson on miscellaneous drugs charges.

An undercover agent from the task force said that over the course of three months, agents and police informants made numerous purchases from the two men. "We're talking ounces and ounces of heroin and cocaine and pounds of marijuana," the agent said.

Officers obtained arrest warrants on the two men, and Lopez was picked up in the Valley. At his residence, officers said they discovered a large amount of cash, and they impounded his vehicle.

In Payson, agents served a search warrant on Huerta's home on south Oak Street. There, they arrested the suspect and confiscated a small amount of cash, personal property and his vehicle. Agents also discovered that Huerta was wanted on nine outstanding felony warrants for drug charges.

Both men remain in custody in lieu of $100,000 bonds.

Pounds of pot

In a separate case, agents wrapped up a month-long investigation into Payson resident Nathaniel William McAtee, who was arrested Wednesday when officers discovered 20 pounds of marijuana in the trunk of the car he was driving.

An agent for the task force said informants had been buying marijuana from McAtee for several weeks, and the task force finally had enough information to pick him up. He was arrested Wednesday afternoon in front of the Tonto Apache Market.

"We received a tip that McAtee was carrying a large quantity of marijuana," the agent said. "After we had him in custody, we used our canine unit to check out the car. The dog picked up an odor coming from the trunk."

Officers impounded the car, got a search warrant and searched the suspect's leased car later that evening.

"You could smell it on the outside of the car. We didn't even need the dog," the agent said. "When we opened the trunk, we found 20 pounds of marijuana. That's a lot of marijuana. That's probably in the neighborhood of $14,000 to $15,000."

When officers searched his house on West Frontier Street, they found an additional pound of marijuana and some drug paraphernalia. McAtee also is in custody on a $100,000 bond.

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