LOGAN — Hocking County Sheriff Lanny North believes one of the largest methamphetamine manufacturers and distributors in Hocking County was arrested Wednesday after the man reportedly solicited people walking inside CVS in Logan to purchase pseudoephedrine.
Criminal informants working with the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office have reportedly said the man had the most potent type of meth in a three-county area, and did business in Athens, Hocking and Meigs counties.
About 1,300 grams of liquid methamphetamine was seized, and two people were taken to Southeastern Ohio Regional in Nelsonville facing multiple felony charges.
When deputies of the Hocking County Sheriff’s Interdiction Unit arrested Brandon N. Smith, 31, of Logan, in the parking lot of the pharmacy, a few bystanders standing near their vehicles cheered on members of the SIU.
One of the bystanders was Julie Heminger, who said she’s happy to see that drugs are being taken off the streets.
“Too many young kids are getting ahold of them,” she told The Logan Daily News. “Way to go Hocking County. Thank you for removing two more drug dealers off our streets.”
After SIU received information that Smith was allegedly soliciting people to purchase pseudoephedrine inside the store, deputies responded and reportedly observed him talking to several people. When they questioned Smith and another occupant inside their Ford Explorer, deputies were told that Smith had an active methamphetamine laboratory at Smith’s residence on state Route 93 South.
Smith was charged with a third-degree felony of tampering with evidence after he allegedly opened a bag of drugs inside his truck and emptied it onto the floor of the truck.
He also was charged with a second-degree felony of manufacturing drugs, a third-degree felony of illegal assembly of chemicals for the manufacture of drugs, first-degree felony of possession of methamphetamine, a fifth-degree felony of possession of heroin, and a fifth-degree felony of possession of 12 Kolonopins. He also had two felony warrants out of Athens County for failure to appear on a possession of drugs charge and a child endangering charge, as well as a bench warrant out of Gallia County for failure to appear in court.
When SIU went to Smith’s home, they allegedly received a consent to search the home from Smith’s roommate, Jason D. McBride, 26, of Logan.
Two one-pot methamphetamine bottles were allegedly in active production and making the drug during the search, while another inactive plastic bottle was found. A total of four acid gas generators — used to extract the meth from the plastic bottle — also were seized.
Detectives from the Fairfield-Hocking Major Crimes Unit responded to neutralize the lab and seized multiple bottles of Liquid Fire liquid drain cleaner, Draino, Coleman fuel, propane tanks, butane tanks, cold packs, lithium batteries, coffee grinders, Gatorade bottles, plastic tubing, Mason jars, meth smoking pipes, table salt, pipe cutters, and one container of liquid that field tested for meth. The container weighed 1,300 grams.
HCSO Detective Caleb Moritz — who is assigned to the major crimes unit — was neutralizing one of the bottles of meth when it exploded. He was not injured, thanks to the protective gear he was wearing.
“It shows how dangerous these chemicals are,” North said. “He is trained to neutralize the vessels, and luckily he wasn’t hurt.”
For Moritz, the experience was just another day on the job. He said he didn’t feel the heat through his protective clothing.
“Based on information that we received in recent weeks, we believe Smith to be one of the largest methamphetamine manufacturers and distributors in Hocking County,” North said. “We have information that he is supplying methamphetamine to other surrounding counties as well. Based on the amount of methamphetamine that SIU units located at the residence, this would lead us to believe that all of the information we had on Smith was accurate.”
McBride was charged with a second-degree felony of illegal manufacturing of drugs, illegal assembly of chemicals for the manufacturing of drugs and possession of methamphetamine.
Earlier this year in June, Smith was allegedly found with 836 grams of methamphetamine, a first-degree felony, after being pulled over for failure to use a turn signal and not having a working license plate light.
Though he was charged with illegal manufacturing of drugs, illegal assembly of chemicals, trafficking in drugs, possession of drugs, identity fraud and was issued a citation for the traffic violations, the charges were never presented to a grand jury in Hocking County Common Pleas Court.
Hocking County Assistant Prosecutor Bill Archer said on Thursday that additional evidence from the HCSO was needed before charges could be presented.
According to Moritz, who helped handle the case against Smith in June, additional evidence was forwarded to the prosecutor’s office as soon as it was received on July 28.
When contacted Thursday afternoon, Hocking County Prosecutor Laina Fetherolf said that to avoid conflicts in the future, she was implementing a sign-in system for cases presented to her office.
"In the future to resolve the issue we're starting a sign-in system so we know what we do and do not have, so there isn't a question," Fetherolf said. "Sometimes there's situations where they think they give us everything we need, but we need (something else) because the defense attorney brought it up or there is a hole somewhere we feel we need to fill."
The new system should prevent any communication problems in the future, she noted.