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Crystal meth conversion lab bust in Northwest Fresno

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Federal, state and local law enforcement officers say Orlando Lara, 21, was converting his latest batch of crystal meth when officers hit the home he rented on Birch Avenue in Northwest Fresno.

Brittany Goodmon watched it all from across the street. "Around seven o'clock I heard some banging inside my house, and when I was letting my dog out and so I came outside to see what happened and I seen a guy with, a cop with a gun that was going around the house with a gun and then I saw cops trying to get inside this house right here."

For 11 hours, officers dismantled the lab. Agents say in just a month, the 400 pounds of meth made here could easily bring in $1,500,000.00.

For the past seven months, investigators have been looking into the group that has ties to southern California and Mexico. Fresno Meth Task Force officials believe the liquid came from Mexico and was converted in Fresno.

Officers say Lara lived at the home and is a Mexican national who speaks very little English. Officers say he manufactured the drugs, and then others in the Central Valley would distribute the meth.

Detectives say others arrested in the operation, were distributors and low level street dealers.

Mike Ortiz with the Fresno Meth Task Force said, "Their distribution network was specifically staying in this Fresno Clovis area and the communities adjoining Fresno and Clovis. So the distribution of all their drugs was pretty much staying local. So it has a huge local impact by taking this group out of the mix."

Detectives say one bedroom was used solely for transforming the liquid into ice. The acetone used in the process creates an overwhelming odor. But, that's not the most concerning issue. Investigators say the flammable chemicals could cause an explosion. In fact, all the outlets in the home were covered, to try to prevent any sparks or fire.

"They will conceal the fumes that are emitted from the actual manufacturing or the conversion of the ice, so they will seal up windows, close doors, all those things, which in turn takes all the flammability and rises it in the house."

Officers say the entire neighborhood was threatened by the potential hazard here. Detectives say a fire one year ago leveled a home in West Central Fresno where another lab was cooking meth.

Investigators say they also found several rifles inside the home used to protect the drugs and drug maker.

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crimetracker, drug bust, fresno northwest, fresno, fresno county, local, sontaya rose
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