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Mobile meth lab found in St. John

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 19, 2010

By ROBIN SHANNON

L’Observateur

LAPLACE – Materials for making a simple form of methamphetamine were discovered in the 500 block of Oak Alley Drive Tuesday by St. John the Baptist Parish narcotics investigators who were acting on a complaint of alleged illegal drug activity in that area.

Capt. Dane Clement, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office, said the materials were found in a plastic storage container hidden under shrubs just off the street. He said the container measured 2 feet long, 18 inches wide and 18 inches tall and was described by investigators as a component of a “mobile drug lab.”

“It is a compact operation in that it is set up to where one could manufacture the drug in a small space like the back seat of a car,” Clement said. “The materials simply need to be combined and don’t require any sort of open flame.”

Investigators said the operation is known as a “shake and bake” or “one-pot method” of making methamphetamine, in which various household chemicals are combined with small amounts of over the counter cold pills in a plastic soda bottle and shaken up. One investigator said the method has grown in popularity over the past year among drug addicts looking for a quick high.

“The container we recovered included a backpack with an assortment of chemicals along with two Coke bottles with protruding tubes,” said an undercover investigator. “We also found a funnel, some coffee filters and small amount of pseudoephedrine pills.”

Clement said this type of mobile lab can be highly explosive, so detectives enlisted the help of Louisiana State Police, the New Orleans office of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the St. John Fire Department to properly handle and secure the materials.

“With the potential for combustion, we weren’t going to take any chances,” Clement said. “The DEA helped us contact a hazardous materials cleanup company to safely recover the contraband as evidence.”

Clement said investigators are conducting interviews throughout the area an are compiling a potential list of suspects. He said use of methamphetamines is not a common problem in St. John Parish.

“It’s possible that people have come in from other surrounding areas, where it has become a burgeoning problem,” Clement said. “Investigators have some suspects and are confident that an arrest will be forthcoming.”