Aroostook County to crack down on ‘smurfers’ who help in meth manufacturing

Drug officials raid a meth lab in Monmouth on Thursday, June 21, 2012.
MDEA
Drug officials raid a meth lab in Monmouth on Thursday, June 21, 2012.
Posted July 19, 2012, at 2:19 p.m.

CARIBOU, Maine — A disturbing number of cases involving methamphetamine manufacturing has prompted the Aroostook County District Attorney’s Office to focus more on prosecuting people who are supplying the illegal drug makers with the material they need to complete the job.

Aroostook County District Attorney Todd Collins said on Monday that two individuals were indicted by the grand jury during this session on trafficking charges related to methamphetamine manufacturing. Michael Carpine, 24, of Limestone was indicted for unlawful trafficking of scheduled drugs and stealing drugs, and Jason C. Sirois, 33, of Van Buren was indicted for unlawful trafficking of scheduled drugs and reckless conduct.

Collins said that the two were manufacturing methamphetamine through a dangerous chemical process known as a “one-pot” or “shake and bake” cooking method. The process uses less pseudoephedrine and also yields meth in minutes rather than hours.

“This marks only the latest in a series of methamphetamine manufacturing cases that are being prosecuted by the district attorney’s office,” said Collins. “In both of these cases, the incendiary mix of chemicals being cooked into methamphetamine caught fire, exposing the maker and the community to immediate serious bodily harm and significant property damage not usually associated with typical drug trafficking. It is a disturbing trend that we can only hope to minimize.”

Collins said that state law has changed to take the drug pseudoephedrine, which is an essential ingredient of methamphetamine, off the shelves in businesses. In an effort to stem the tide of methamphetamine manufacturing, buyers of pseudoephedrine now have to request it from a pharmacy and they must show identification. The state also limits the amount of pseudoephedrine that an individual can purchase during the course of a month.

While Collins acknowledged that it worked for a time, he said that law enforcement and prosecutors are now seeing more drug traffickers asking family, friends, acquaintances, and hired help to secure pseudoephedrine in several small, individual purchases. The practice is called “smurfing,” Collins said on Monday.

“Smurfers will oftentimes be paid by the drug trafficker with cash or with the promise of some newly cooked methamphetamine,” he explained. “Those that help a drug trafficker manufacture methamphetamine by purchasing and providing pseudoephedrine to the cook are complicit in trafficking methamphetamine, in fact and in the law.”

Collins announced that starting this week, his office will be seeking to indict and prosecute individuals who facilitate the manufacture of methamphetamine by “smurfing” pseudoephedrine. They will face charges of unlawful trafficking of scheduled drugs.

The unlawful trafficking of methamphetamine, whether by facilitating its manufacture or by manufacturing it, is a Class B felony punishable by a maximum period of incarceration of 10 years in the state prison and by a $20,000 fine.

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