MIDLAND The Department of Public Safety and numerous other agencies apprehended 16 suspects early Wednesday in an ongoing two-year investigation into two methamphetamine manufacturing rings with ties to the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas and the Aryan Circle, a spokeswoman said.
In a Wednesday afternoon press conference at the Midland DPS office, spokeswoman Tela Mange said all 16 suspects were suspected of buying a large amount of medicines used to make the illegal drug in pharmacies all over Midland, Odessa, Big Spring and Lubbock during the past two years. DPS and police officers raided 12 labs, including one in Odessa and one in Monahans Wednesday morning, where two of the 16 arrests were made.
The 16 were all charged with possession of a List 1 chemical with intent to manufacture methamphetamine and sale, manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance. Mange said some of them had additional conspiracy charges but neither she nor other DPS officials at the conference could immediately identify which of the 16 had the additional charges.
"They were very major players, and we're glad to shut them down," Mange said.
John Klassen, an assistant U.S. district attorney based in Midland, said all 16 suspects are being held at the U.S. Marshal's Office and will be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. today.
Klassen and DPS Narcotics Service Lt. Robert Ralls said the investigation took advantage of a law passed in 2005, requiring people to show their ID and put their names in a log at a drug store when they buy medicines containing ephedrine, Pseudoephedrine and norpseudoephedrine. These substances are found in Sudafed, Actifed and several other cold medications. In large quantities, those drugs can be converted to meth.
Ralls said each drug store keeps a log on those purchases and the names of the buyers. Investigators checked those logs to determine that the 16 suspects were buying an illegal amount.
People can buy no more than 3.6 grams of those substances a day or nine grams a month. A typical package of 24 generic Pseudoephedrine tablets contains 0.72 grams.
Mange said the suspects bought enough cold pills to contain nearly 10 pounds of the three substances, enough to produce seven pounds or more than $200,000 in meth.
More arrests are pending in the ongoing investigation, Mange said.
The 16 arrested Wednesday bring the total to 42 arrested in the investigation since December 2006, when the first of the 12 meth labs was raided in Odessa. Twenty-three people have already been convicted, Mange added.
The Aryan Circle was involved in several crimes throughout the Permian Basin, including another major meth bust in 2004. People with connections to the white supremacist group were also suspected in the shooting death of Ray Valdez north of Odessa in October, even though Mange said there was no direct connection between the shooting and this investigation.
The 16 arrested are:
>> David Alan Aldridge, 49.
>> James Perry Averitt Jr. 38.
>> Brittany Rene Bacon, 24.
>> Clifford Wayne Baxter, 38.
>> Lawanda Bradley Calvert, 49.
>> Troy Chris Cantrell, 52.
>> Misty Dawn Crow, 33.
>> Tanya Sue Haynes, 35.
>> Teresa Lane Merritt, 46.
>> Julia Lynn Milburn, 46.
>> Elizabeth Ann Parada, 39.
>> Michelle Faye Preston, 27.
>> Michael Glyn Rains, 56.
>> Michael Joe Smithee, 52.
>> Robert Allen Thompson, 52.
>> Kenneth Dale Tracy, 51.
By the Numbers
>> 5: Number of labs discovered in Odessa.
>> 3: Number of labs discovered in Monahans.
>> 1: Number of labs found in Kermit, Ector County, Big Spring and Andrews.
>> 120 mg (0.12 g): Amount of Pseudoephedrine Hydrochloride found in a caplet of Sudafed 12-hour nasal decongestant
Sources: DPS, www.shopinprivate.com