Ten people charged with conspiracy to distribute meth; officials say prisoners operated ring

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GADSDEN, Ala. - Federal and local officials say 10 people in northeastern Alabama are now behind bars due to a conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine.

Two illegal aliens are serving time in Georgia state prisons, and officials say eight others face a federal indictment that they conspired to traffic 50 grams or more of meth in Cleburne, Etowah, Marshall, Cherokee and DeKalb counties for the past year and a half.

Jose Rolando Arroyo Balcazar, 36, and Miguel Manriquez, 38, were already serving sentences in separate Georgia state prisons for meth trafficking and a murder conviction, respectively. The U.S. Attorney's Office said the two communicated with each other and with people outside the prison system to carry out the meth trafficking operation in northeast Alabama. This, according to a testimony last week in federal court in Huntsville.

The penalty for the conspiracy counts and the counts of distributing 50 grams or more of meth is 10 years to life in prison and a maximum $10 million fine. The penalty for distributing five grams or more of meth is five to 40 years in prison and a maximum $5 million fine.

Multiple law enforcement groups joined together to bust this drug ring including the FBI, Etowah County Sheriff's Office, Gadsden Police, DeKalb County Sheriff's Office, Cherokee County Sheriff's Office and Heflin Police.

"Thanks to the many law enforcement agencies that joined together to identify the participants in this organization, including two who were giving orders from within Georgia state prisons, we were able to shut off this illegal supply network," U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said.

This case was investigated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Program (OCDETF), which is a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.