NASHUA – Eleven New Hampshire and Massachusetts men and women have been charged in connection with a methamphetamine operation police say was run out of a basement at 83 Gillis St.
The operation was broken up in June, and indictments were unsealed Wednesday as the suspects made their first court appearance at U.S. District Court in Concord, law enforcement officials said.
"Some of the people charged today are meth cooks," said Matthew Addington, a special agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
He was one of a dozen officials who gathered at the Nashua Police Department headquarters to announce the end of a three-year investigation termed "Operation Crystal Baker."Officials said they weren't prepared to attach a dollar amount to the meth the suspects allegedly produced. However, the drug was being made "at the gram level" at 83 Gillis St. and in cars and apartments around the city, officials said.
"These are street labs made of everyday household items," Addington said.
Such small, portable meth manufacturing operations are called "box labs" or "backpack labs," Addington said.
Though small, the labs are dangerous, he said.
Also attending the press conference were Nashua Police Chief Donald Conley and Capt. Scott Howe, and officials from the U.S. Attorneys Office, the state Department of Environmental Services and other agencies.
Each suspect faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and fines up to $1 million.
The 83 Gillis St. residence where officials allege the meth was being produced is within 1,000 feet of the Dr. Norman Crisp Elementary School at 50 Arlington St., according to the indictment.
Also, an 11-month-old child was living in the home at the time meth was allegedly being produced. The child's mother and grandmother were arrested and charged, officials said.
Officials wouldn't say what tipped off the investigation. However, they noted that suspects were buying chemicals used to produce meth in small quantities at various local pharmacies. Law enforcement agents crossed-checked pharmacies' logs as part of the investigation.
Gillis Street is a quiet, middle-class neighborhood in the eastern portion of the city. The house where one of the suspects, Thomas McElligott, resided and allegedly produced meth is a nondescript ranch not far from where the street doglegs and runs behind the elementary school.
State environmental officials tested the home in June and found traces of meth in the kitchen and bathroom. The property was quickly cleaned up, and no traces were found in the child living in the home, officials said.
Producing meth is potentially explosive, and the process produces toxic wastes, officials said.
The investigation was a collaborative effort of the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Nashua Police Department, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the N.H. Attorney General's Office, Candia Police Department and the Rockingham County Attorney's Office, N.H. State Police, the N.H. Attorney General's Office, the Hillsborough County Attorneys Office and Bedford and Manchester police departments.
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This article appears in the July 31 2009 issue of New Hampshire Business Review