4 meth busts in Wickliffe, Madison kick off many more projected arrests

The drug is still around and it has no geographic boundaries.

On July 18, the Lake County Narcotics Agency arrested two Wickliffe residents accused of manufacturing methamphetamine.  Megin Miether and Matthew Agostine were living together at 838 Bryn Mawr Ave. when the agency and the Wickliffe police department executed a search warrant.

Those are just two of between 20 and 50 arrests projected in the next month related to manufacturing the drug, LCNA Sgt. Brad Kemp said.  The owner of the Bryn Mawr home with whom Miether and Agostine were staying also is under investigation. Charges are expected to be filed under a secret indictment.

Kemp said they found the typical ingredients: plastic bottles — some filled with sludge and others with plastic tubes sticking out — salt, instant cold packs, fuel, batteries, and, most importantly, pseudoephedrine tablets or empty pill packaging.

Extracted from those household items are the chemicals needed to make the drug: lithium, ammonium nitrate, pseudoephedrine, solvents (like lantern fuel) lye and water.  Kemp said people should be aware of the ingredients so they can keep an eye out for the process occurring around them.

“Manufacturing meth is not hard and it’s gotten even easier,” he said of a change about 7 or 8 years ago. “The new method is easy and can be done in smaller batches.”  He said the process used to require a rare farming fertilizer but now uses only household items and takes only an hour.

Kemp said about $20 in up-front cost yields about 2 grams — two sugar packets worth — that sell for about $200. That’s why he said the problem is still going strong, despite what he said the public might have started to think.

Miether and Agostine represent arrests No. 3 and No. 4.  This series started with two arrests made June 27 in Madison.  The agency arrested Glenn Bryant and Lisa Quirk with the help of Madison Township police.  They had the same materials for “one-pot” labs, the plastic bottle method, Kemp said.

He said “numerous other individuals” were interviewed Tuesday evening but not yet arrested.  He said he wants to work from the top manufacturers down to the worker bees who gather the ingredients.  “What’s happening is you have these two (cooking) groups and then all these people going out and buying pseudoephedrine,” he said. The latter group will make up the majority of the projected arrests in the county over the next month.

Since 2006 — because of a provision included in the Patriot Act signed by President George W. Bush — any person who buys cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine is limited to 3.6 grams per day or 9 grams in a 30-day period.

“But that doesn’t matter,” Kemp said.  Anyone who has purchased the drug or any other ingredient to contribute to the manufacture of meth is a target for the agency.  “We want to eradicate them, knock them of Lake County,” he said.

Like the pain killing opiates blamed for commonly leading to heroin addiction when abused, Kemp said pseudoephedrine can’t simply be removed from shelves. There is a purpose for the drugs in medicine, he said.  And that’s not all meth and heroin have in common.

“These two groups who admitted to heroin use,” he said. “Heroin has spread like wildfire just like meth has spread like wildfire.”  Over the 20 years he has worked in the business he said has seen the trends.

Meth hit Lake County in 2000, Kemp said. Now, simpler manufacturing methods have made it even more common.  “It’s become more organized,” he said, adding that if someone asks another to purchase cold medicine for them, caution should be used.

He said there are daily arrests in Ashtabula County for heroin and meth and, although Lake County does not deal with that same frequency, he said his agency is involved in arrests in all surrounding counties if it deals with narcotics abuse.

In Middlefield Village, two Ashtabula County residents were arrested and accused of having chemicals for manufacturing methamphetamine on July 15. Rhonda L. Toke, 48, of 6432 Loveland Road in Jefferson, and Jonathan L. Byler, 26, of 8369 Fortney Road in Orwell, allegedly purchased chemicals to be used in making meth. Byler also attempted to hide the chemicals in a bush near a McDonald’s in Middlefield Village, according to a news release from the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office and Chardon Municipal Court records.

Byler and Toke were arraigned on July 16 in Chardon Municipal Court and were each charged with one count of third-degree felony illegal assembly or possession of chemicals used to manufacture drugs.  Middlefield Village police assisted in locating the discarded chemicals, according to the news release.

Agostine, Bryant, Miether and Quirk were all charged with third-degree felonies related to assembling or possessing one or more chemicals to manufacture or intend to manufacture methamphetamine, according to Painesville Municipal Court records. All but Quirk were also charged with second-degree felony manufacturing because of the meth labs found.

“Most drug people aren’t bad people and they’re looking and crying for a way out,” he said.  “(Meth) is a drug most people aren’t able to get off. Seven percent of people are able to get off of it. We’re fighting two of the hardest addictions out there.”

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