Confidential informant tipped off sheriff's office about possible meth lab and narcotics trafficking
“There were approximately 20 pots that were located during the course of the investigation and the bags would be consistent with somebody packaging for resale."
In a scene out of the hit TV drama Breaking Bad, a clandestine drug lab has been found inside a Hambden Township home.
The discovery of a methamphetamine lab was made when Geauga County Sheriff’s Office deputies searched a property at 10865 Holi Dale Drive around 8:30 Tuesday night.
Inside a locked bedroom detective found plastic bottles and other paraphernalia, including numerous small bags, consistent with the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamines, Geauga County Sheriff Dan McClelland said during a Thursday morning press conference. It was one of the largest meth lab busts made in Geauga County.
Peter M. Mancuso Jr., 36, was arrested Tuesday and charged with the manufacture of a controlled substance, a first-degree felony. He also was cited for a minor misdemeanor traffic violation — failure to display two lights — which ultimately led to his subsequent arrest.
Mancuso was on probation at the time of his arrest. In 2010, he was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, liquor or drugs — his second offense — and violation of probation. He served 10 days in jail and was placed on probation until Nov. 19, 2015.
On Wednesday, Mancuso made his initial appearance before Chardon Municipal Court Judge Terri Stupica. She set bond at 10 percent of $20,000, but his probation violation is non-bondable, so Mancuso remains jailed at the Geauga County Safety Center.
McClelland said sheriff’s office detectives initiated an investigation into Mancuso’s activities about two months ago.
“The investigation started after we began to receive information that Mr. Mancuso might be involved in the manufacturing of methamphetamines and narcotic trafficking,” the sheriff explained. “So he was on the radar screen.”
He said the information came from an individual who wished to remain “confidential.”
At around 8:25 p.m. Tuesday, Deputy Andrew Humar was patrolling Chardon Windsor Road in Hambden Township when he observed a vehicle with only one headlight, McClelland said.
The deputy initiated a traffic stop and approached the vehicle, which Mancuso was driving.
“He observed various items in the car that are consistent with the manufacture of methamphetamines,” McClelland said. Those items included carpet stains consistant with leaking product, open packs of Sudafed-type products, foil, tubes and mason jars.
One of the items located in the vehicle was a locked toolbox, which Mancuso refused to open. Detectives then proceeded to obtain several search warrants — one for the toolbox and one for the Holi Dale Drive home, which Mancuso’s parents own.
The toolbox did not contain tools, but rather paraphernalia used for the manufacture of methamphetamines, the sheriff said.
Items seized from the residence included plastic bottles often used in the production of meth, empty cold-remedy boxes and numerous small bags.
“There were approximately 20 pots that were located during the course of the investigation and the bags would be consistent with somebody packaging for resale,” McClelland explained.
These one-pot meth labs were in various stages, although the majority of them had residue evidencing they had been used in production, he said.
“That’s a pretty big number. Typically, there are one to two (pots) in a normal meth (operation),” McClelland said.
The sheriff said detective are investing whether Mancuso was “driving around” with these one-pot labs or working solely out of his home.
The sheriff said six other people live at the Holi Dale residence, including a 3-year-old female and some elderly extended family.
None of these individuals were involved in any criminal activity, he added.
“Customarily, when you think of a home, you think of everyone in the home having access and being able to move freely about the home. But when there’s one area that deliberately secured, and they are not permitted in there, it begins to exclude them,” McClelland said.
He added, “Mr. Mancuso would lock his bedroom from the inside, and that’s where the paraphernalia and manufacturing equipment were kept, and would actually enter and exit through an exterior window — climbing out the window — in an effort to keep those others who lived in that house from his bedroom.”
The Lake County Narcotics Unit was called in to assist with the handling of hazardous materials often present in meth operations, the sheriff said.
Sheriff’s Lt. Scott Niehus explained with “one-pot cooks” unless the vapors are bleeded off they continue to build within the vessel itself.
“The danger comes if that vessel is not being evacuated with the fumes, then it becomes potentially explosive,” he said.
These pots, or vessels, can be liter pop bottles, mason jars and even plastic dish soap bottles, McClelland said.
“Meth is not new, it’s been around for many years now, unfortunately,” McClelland said, adding its use and production appear to be on the rise again in Ohio.
He explained methamphetamines are easy to make and begin with various cold remedies such as Sudafed and other chemicals readily available in stores.
The sheriff also said Mancuso has ties to the Cleveland area and detectives “are working to explore those further.”
A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 6 in Chardon Municipal Court.
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