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Sheriff's office shuts meth labs, dump site

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It's 4th case in Levy in past month

By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

The Levy County Sheriff's Office is working a chain of information to shut methamphetamine (meth) manufacturing with the bust of a fourth lab — this latest rolling among U.S. Highway 27A, and a meth lab dump site in the past month.

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The drive to make Levy County started April 27 when a theft investigation led to the discovery of an active meth lab at a Chiefland residence. An man and a woman were arrested in that operation. (Fore earlier story, click here.)

Three days later deputies arrested a man at his Chiefland residence where he admitted having an active meth lab. (For this story, click here.)

On May 15, the sheriff's office participated in a raid on a Crystal River residence where a man serving probation from Levy County was found with an active meth lab and 505 grams of meth oil — considered trafficking weight under state law and carries a 15 year mandatory sentence upon conviction. Citrus deputies arrested Vince Baker and charged him with manufacturing meth, possessing meth, possessing a listed chemical used to manufacture meth and violation of probation. (For this story, click here.)

On Monday, a citizen's tip led to a residence on Northwest 85th Street in Bronson where three men were waiting on one last ingredient to cook a batch of meth. They were arrested and sheriff's deputies are still seeking a fourth man in connection with that case.

Deputies also found a shotgun at the residence. Arrested were: Daniel Larkins, 29, Richard Sanders, 25, and Ronald Kingsley, 24. Larkins is charged with conspiracy to manufacture meth. His bond is $25,000. Sanders is charged with conspiracy to manufacture meth, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and tampering with a witness. His bond is $175,000. Kingsley is charged with conspiracy to manufacture meth and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. His bond is $125,000.

Working off information gleaned from the Monday arrests, Deputies Keagon Weatherford and Deputy Clint Anderson and his K-9 partner, Nero, stopped Michael Tipler, who was wanted on warrants in Gilchrist and Dixie counties, while he was driving a 2003 Pontiac van with an active meth lab in it. Also in the van when it was stopped in the 3600 block of U.S. Highway 27A were Edward Garcia and Harris Garcia.

The three were arrested and with information developed from the traffic stop, deputies found a meth lab disposal site in a neighborhood behind the Bronson Speedway in Bronson. The site contained components created during the manufacturing of meth. The process mixes ingredients like lithium and other solvents. All are capable of causing great bodily harm to any unsuspecting person. 

Tipler, 26, who was wanted on a Gilchrist County warrant for violation of probation on aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and a Dixie County Warrant for aggravated battery on an officer, possession of listed chemicals for meth production, fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement and possession of drug paraphernalia, is now charged in Levy with production and possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. His bond is $60,000. He has no bond on the two out-of-county warrants.

Harris Garcia, 21, was charged with production and possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. His bond is $60,000. Harris Garcia is also facing two counts of grand theft auto and dealing in stolen property. Harris Garcia had been identified as a suspect in the theft of at least two vehicles in the Bronson area.  

Edward Garcia, 22, charged with production and possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. His bond is $60,000.

In past interviews, deputies and police officers have said meth is a highly addictive drug that can be manufactured using readily available chemicals anyone can buy off the shelf. Attempts to control the manufacture of the drug by limiting purchases of over-the-counter sinus medication have not stopped production of the drug by amateur chemists.

And with the reformulation to a “one-cook” method that can be made without the use of a kitchen in something as simple as an empty plastic drink bottle, some have taken to making the crystal meth in moving vehicles.

That's because the production of meth not only produces noxious fumes, but volatile chemical mixes that can be disposed of by tossing the used plastic bottle out of the vehicle window.

In each instance members of the Chiefland Fire Rescue Haz-Mat team and the Levy County Sheriff's Office Drug Task Force who trained and certified to clean up the meth manufacturing chemicals and render the former labs safe.

Sheriff's Lt. Scott Tummond said the first Bronson lab investigation was helped tremendously by the tip provided by a concerned citizen. He said the sheriff's office encourages the public to call 352-486-5111 or Crime Stoppers at 1-877-349-8477 to report suspicious activity.