Friday, July 25, 2003

Two busts crimp drug trade

Kilo of meth a large seizure

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

In two busts within hours Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, Cincinnati police arrested four people and seized at least a kilogram of methamphetamine, more than a pound each of crack and powder cocaine, more than 20 pounds of marijuana, two guns, $12,000 in cash and a BMW.

"There are a lot of people who won't be getting their stuff this week," Officer Ken Baker said, referring to dealers and users to whom the drugs would have been sold.

In what officials said could be one of the largest methamphetamine busts in Ohio, police on Thursday confiscated more than a kilogram at a Sayler Park house. The meth, if sold on the street, would sell for about $100,000.

A routine traffic stop by a part-time Cleves police officer Wednesday night led Cincinnati's Street Corner drug unit to the two-story Revere Avenue house. Officers were surprised at the complexity of the lab.

They found ether, chemicals and an elaborate ventilation system apparently designed to keep neighbors from smelling the fumes that are emitted when meth is made, said Cincinnati police Capt. Paul Humphries, the vice unit commander.

"A kilo of meth - that's incredible,'' said John Burke, director of the Warren County Drug Task Force, who helped organize a meth symposium last week for officers from across the state. "That's got to be one of the biggest meth seizures in Ohio.''

Cleves Police Spc. Cliff Wright pulled over a car about 10 p.m. Wednesday after noticing the license plate in the car's back window was blocked. The driver was arrested after it was determined his license was suspended. Wright was searching the car, a routine procedure before impounding a vehicle, when he found white powder. The powder tested positive as methamphetamine.

Officials declined to discuss exactly how they linked the meth from the car to the Sayler Park home. But they arrested Gary Teetor, 44, listed as the owner of the house, and Mark G. Korb, 46. Both were charged with permitting drug abuse. Officers were still looking for someone else, Humphries said.

The two busts were proof, police commanders said, that responding to community complaints and doing routine police work can lead to big hits in drugs and weapons.

"We always say everything - guns, violence - relates to drugs. But it's true," said Capt. Vince Demasi, acting commander of the department's investigations bureau.

On Wednesday afternoon, officers from the same Street Corner unit seized a loaded shotgun and a .38-caliber handgun during a drug arrest in Walnut Hills. Officers also confiscated more than a pound each of crack and powder cocaine, 20 pounds in marijuana and $12,000 cash in rolled-up bills.

That case started with a resident complaining about a man selling drugs near William Howard Taft Road and Melrose Avenue. An undercover officer bought $20 in crack from the man, who was then arrested.

Officers arrested Ray Johnson, 21, and found more crack and powder cocaine in his BMW. Officer Brett Stratmann said Johnson was keeping it there for another dealer to pick up. Savalas Mills, 27, was also arrested. Both men were charged with drug possession and drug trafficking.

Officials said the Sayler Park lab was a danger to the neighborhood because the chemicals used can explode.

Meth costs the same on the street as crack (about $100 a gram) but gives a longer-lasting high and is cheaper to make and, therefore, more profitable, Burke said.

Exact figures weren't available Thursday, but Humphries said Cincinnati police shut down three or four meth labs in the city a year. The labs are more common in rural areas like Clermont County.

Unlike the elaborate lab setup in Sayler Park, many are what Burke called "mom and pop" labs that make drugs for their own personal use.

"To get a kilo of meth is a tremendous accomplishment," he said.

"Unfortunately, it's a problem that's going to continue to grow."


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