Task force busts seven for running meth lab

Posted: 3rd October 2012 by Doc in Uncategorized
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ST. JOHNS — A task force composed of personnel from the Apache County Sheriff’s Office, the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS SWAT, HazMat, EOD and Patrol and DPS Ranger), and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) Clandestine Laboratory unit executed two search warrants in Sanders, seizing a methamphetamine lab, drugs and firearms. Seven people were also taken into custody.

Task force busts seven for running meth lab

Two search warrants were issued in Sanders seizing a methamphetamine lab, drugs and firearms. Seven people were taken into custody


The first warrant was served at the location of Action Automotive and Towing, located at milepost 336 on the Interstate 40 frontage road, just east of Sanders. At that location officers located a meth lab in a mobile home approximately 20 yards behind the building. In a camp trailer located next to the mobile home, officers found an “extraction setup,” the process that is used to extract ephedrine from over the counter medication. Ephedrine is the base chemical in methamphetamine. Inside the house the tow company operated from, officers recovered drugs, drug paraphernalia, and several firearms. One of the residents of the home is a young child. The child is currently staying with another family member.

After the area was secured and the four people at the location were taken into custody, officers then executed a second warrant at the residence of Gary Allen McDonald, 66. McDonald’s residence is approximately three miles west of the towing company on the frontage road. At McDonald’s residence, officers recovered a sizeable quantity of a crystalline substance believed to be methamphetamine, and over twenty firearms.

After both the locations had been secured, officers began the process of cataloging and dismantling the meth lab setup. Investigators believe the lab had the capacity to easily produce eight to 10 pounds of methamphetamine per week. AZ DPS HazMat and Crime Lab personnel are handling the dismantling and disposal of the toxic materials. Some of the items cannot be seized for evidentiary purposes and have to be disposed of due to their unstable and/or hazardous nature. Those items that are too dangerous to seize are photographed, tested to determine composition and then cataloged and destroyed. The production of methamphetamine relies on the use of caustic fluids, toxic materials and extremely unstable and dangerous substances like red phosphorous.

Other persons arrested along with McDonald were Christopher Roy Rehfield, 59; Diana R. Neri, 40, the registered owner of Action Towing; Susan Elizabeth Sorensen, 36; and Mark Gilmore, 43, and Megan Hill, 28.

Law enforcement personnel in the area had observed suspicious activity, but were never quite able to get enough actionable information on McDonald or the others. Local officers from DPS and Sheriff’s deputies began to gather information on the amount and types of traffic that came and went through the towing company.

On Tuesday, Sept. 25, a member of the Apache County Cooperative Enforcement Narcotics Team (ACCENT) conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle traveling on Route 191 in Sanders. The driver, Samantha L. Hernandez, an acquaintance of McDonald’s, was extremely nervous during the officer’s field interview. During the interview, Detective Albert Clark observed items that appeared to be illegal on the passenger seat. Clark questioned the driver and she consented to a search of the vehicle. She also advised Clark that there was a loaded gun in the front seat.

During the search of the car, Detective Clark found a pipe; a substance that appeared to be marijuana; and a bag of crystalline substance that appeared to be methamphetamine. Hernandez was taken into custody. During the course of the investigation, Detective Clark was able to secure enough information, coupled with the information that the DPS officers and deputies had previously gathered, to get the search warrants for the towing company and the McDonald residence.

“First and foremost, I am extremely glad that these peace officers were patient and diligent in pursuing this case. Their collaboration and cooperative response is what made this a successful operation,” stated Sheriff Joseph Dedman, Jr. “I am grateful to the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for sending their personnel in support of this operation. These labs are always dangerous due to the unstable nature of the chemicals involved and the methods used to produce the drug. They are quite literally toxic waste dumps. It saddens me to know that a child was living in this residence, with such a dangerous environment. The child’s play area is between the meth lab and the residence. This is just disturbing to me. Thanks to the efforts of our area law enforcement personnel and the assistance of our partner jurisdictions, we have taken not just criminals, but makers and distributors of poison off our streets. I would hope that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”







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