Friday, July 06, 2001

Local trucker charged as meth seized

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEW MIAMI — Authorities say they caught a long-haul trucker with two kilograms of methamphetamine that he may have brought cross-country.

        In what is being called one of the state's largest seizures of methamphetamine, Merle Wyatt, 52, faces two weapons charges and a count of felony drug possession.

        With bail set at $500,000 Thursday, Mr. Wyatt was being held in the Butler County Jail awaiting a July 12 preliminary hearing in Hamilton Municipal Court.

        New Miami Police Chief Duane Pelfrey said the bust at Mr. Wyatt's Martin Avenue home was significant for this small village of about 2,500 people.

        “We knew that there was going to be a substantial amount, but we had no idea that we would hit that much,” Chief Pelfrey said. “We were pretty overwhelmed at what we got.”

        Besides two kilos of the drug, officers Wednesday night seized $36,000 in counterfeit currency, eight vehicles and 44 “assorted weapons,” including an illegal assault rifle, the chief said.

        Two kilos of “meth” — almost 4 1/2 pounds — has a street value of $300,000 or more, said Frank Magoch, special agent in charge of Ohio operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. He said the state's largest known bust involved 3 kilograms of the powerful, addictive stimulant.

        Mr. Magoch said authorities have information that Mr. Wyatt was bringing the meth from California, home of the nation's largest number of “superlabs” — sophisticated operations capable of producing 10 or more pounds of methamphetamine in a single batch. Among 70 superlabs the DEA seized in 1998, 56 were in California.

        “We believe (Mr. Wyatt's) main source of income is trucking across the country, picking up the drugs and bringing them back here to sell,” Chief Pelfrey said.

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