In a small shopping center across the street from a Fort Worth high school and a few blocks from Texas Christian University, one could buy clothing, shoes and hats out of a store called Funky Town Swag as well as methamphetamine, according to federal officials.
The DEA busted the meth ring, and 30 members of the alleged drug conspiracy have been charged as part of Operation Ice Tank, officials said.
Johnny Ray Rodriguez, Jr., the owner of the now-shuttered Funky Town Swag, was the ringleader of the group, authorities said. His lawyer could not be reached Friday for comment.
Dealers working for Rodriguez sold “kilogram quantities of crystal meth out of Funky Town’s back office as well as several trap houses, a local motel, and a car wash,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Rodriguez, 30, and his co-defendants are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. They each face up to 40 years in prison if convicted.
Agents on Wednesday arrested 21 of the defendants. Five more were already in state custody. And four remain fugitives. Investigators also seized 16 kilograms of methamphetamine, 9 ounces of heroin, and nine firearms.
“A highly-addictive and dangerous stimulant, methamphetamine has plagued North Texas communities for far too long. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DEA are determined to root out large-scale distribution operations like this one,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox of the Northern District of Texas.
Rodriguez, his cousin and others tried to convert a Fort Worth home into a meth conversion lab, authorities said.
In the kitchen, agents found the following: 27 igloo coolers; a bucket containing a chemical compound often used as a cutting agent; three jugs of acetone; one container of liquid meth; and two containers of crystal meth, officials said.
They also found baggies of crystal meth inside a washing machine, a loaded gun in the master bedroom, and 8 kilograms of methamphetamine in the home, according to authorities.
“Methamphetamine trafficking has no place in Tarrant County,” said Eduardo A. Chavez, over the DEA’s Dallas division, in a statement. “Individuals and organizations who not only distribute this poison in our communities, but also endanger innocent lives by converting liquid meth to crystals in makeshift laboratories cannot be tolerated.”
The clothing store operated out of shopping center on the 2200 block of Berry Street, across from R. L. Paschal High School.