Federal agents say they’ve arrested 31 people this month alone – connected to meth lab investigations in Upstate New York. Many of them are from Onondaga, Oneida, and Oswego Counties. 

Overall, investigators are seeing a sharp rise in methamphetamine abuse.

“The number of overdose deaths involving methamphetamine have doubled in just two years,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Grant Jaquith.

On average, New York State Police recorded one report of clandestine labs in the state per year throughout the 1990’s. The number rose to about 31 per year in the next decade. 

Then, a much sharper increase…up to 447 clandestine labs were discovered last year.  

As of the end of June 2017, troopers had recorded 279 cases so far this year.

“The ‘one-pot’ or ‘shake-n-bake’ method of producing methamphetamine generally involves mixing pseudoephedrine with caustic chemicals and solvents in a 2-liter bottle,” Jaquith said. “It is a combustible mix and a very dangerous process.”

Jaquith says 21 of the people arrested this month are accused of possessing the key ingredient for making meth…pseudoephedrine. It’s available in stores to treat the common cold. 

While there are restrictions on the amount of pseudoephedrine sold in New York, few stores would be able to flag abuse because there’s not a central database to monitor individual purchases.

“You can literally go to your mom and pop pharmacies, buy whatever you want to buy within legal rights, then you go to another pharmacy and buy…and they are not linked,” explained Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent David Zon.

In recent years, agents are seeing thicker clusters of small meth labs in Jefferson, Oneida, Oswego and Broome Counties, which account for 36% of all labs in the state. 

Rural areas offer access to another meth lab one-pot ingredient, found in fertilizer.

“We’ve had farmers call up and say ‘I just filled my tank and now I’m down. Two weeks later I’m down to a quarter of a tank. Somebody must be stealing it,'” Zon said.

Addictions rates are so high that more potent forms of refined meth are being shipped to Upstate New York from Mexico. 

“People who are addicted to it can’t live without it, so if they can’t make another batch, they’ve got to go find it,” Zon added. “The need and demand is so high that they literally have to start bringing it in from Mexico through Phoenix (Arizona) into this area to meet demand.”

Nine people were arrested as part of that international investigation dubbed Operation Hail Storm. One suspect in that recent case is from Arizona, the others are from the Southern Tier of New York.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office outlined their separate investigations into international trafficking and local manufacturing of methamphetamine as follows:

The first series of arrests on Sept. 19 included nine suspects who had pseudoephedrine in their possession, knowing it would be used to make methamphetamine.

If convicted, they could face up to 20 years in prison.

The first group included:

– Brett Clifton, 19, Lyons Falls, NY
– Leann Evans, 28, Rome, NY
– Mark Myers, 54, Blossvale, NY
– Brittany DeKay, 37, Blossvale, NY
– Michael Hoke, 37, Utica, NY
– Scott Leisner, 48, Sylvan Beach, NY
– Alyssa Moleski, 21, Cicero, NY
– Joseph Palladino, 48, Carthage, NY
– James Mayhew, 39, Watertown, NY

A 10th person – 29-year-old Zachary Mazur of Utica – was arrested on Sept. 26.

A second investigation targeting New York’s Southern Tier resulted in nine arrests on Sept. 20.

The suspects rounded up in Operation Hail Storm face charges including trafficking meth and could – with the exception of Amanda Kamp – be sentenced to a minimum of 10 years. Kamp could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

The defendants included:
– Alonzo Lamar Harris, a/k/a “L” 42, of Youngstown, Arizona
– Charles Green, a/k/a “C” 42, of Endicott, New York
– Akuan Johnson, a/k/a “Bleek” 38, of Binghamton, New York
– Vincent Harrell, a/k/a “VI” 39, of Endicott, New York
– Kenneth Wilson, a/k/a “KB” 46, of Endicott, New York
– Rachel Millard, a/k/a “R” 30, of Endicott, New York
– Jolene Barrett, 41, of Johnson City, New York
– Misti Evans, 37, of Endicott, New York
– Amanda Kamp, 37, of Deposit, New York

On September 26, 35-year-old Jerome Bell of Binghamton, was also arrested.

An 11th person, 39-year-old Robert Patton of Waverly, was arrested on Sept. 20 on a charge of criminal possession of a controlled substance.

If convicted, Johnson, Harrell, Wilson, and Bell could face enhanced penalties because of their prior convictions. 

Investigators recovered six pounds of meth, more than $60,000 of cash, three handguns, and three vehicles.

On Sept. 28, 10 more people were arrested and charged with possessing pseudoephedrine, knowing it would be used to make methamphetamine. Those suspects are:

– Arthur LaDuke, 45, North Syracuse, NY
– Brittany Peck, 28, Richland, NY
– Christine Morey, 32, West Monroe, NY
– Donald Burdick, 59, West Monroe, NY
– Edward Bennett, 32, Pulaski, NY
– Elizabeth Kairis, 22, Cicero, NY
– Leann Harrison, 58, West Monroe, NY
– Lindsey Creiman, 36, Cicero, NY
– Loren Redhead, 30, Pulaski, NY
– Mary Jean Pugh, 40, Pulaski, NY

They could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, if convicted.