ELLSWORTH, Maine — Three people have been arrested on drug trafficking charges after local police found a suspected mobile methamphetamine lab in a High Street parking lot.
According to the Ellsworth Police Department, the lab was discovered Thursday night in two vehicles in the parking lot of the Hampton Inn. The vehicles were still in the parking lot on Friday afternoon as police — suited up in safety gear — examined the vehicles in order to remove potentially dangerous chemicals.
According to Maine Drug Enforcement Agency officials, there were 14 meth lab busts in Maine in 2012 and so far this year there have been 12, including the one in Ellsworth. It is the first meth lab bust officials could recall in Hancock County.
Ellsworth Sgt. Glenn Moshier said Friday that police went to the hotel the previous night after receiving a report of people looking through windows of cars parked at the hotel. After going to investigate, officers ended up talking to the three suspects, a woman and two men, who were staying at the hotel. While talking to the trio in their room, police observed drugs, drug paraphernalia and a large amount of cash in the room, police said. Officers then went out to examine the suspects’ vehicles and came upon the alleged drug operation around 9:30 p.m. Thursday.
“In [the woman’s] vehicle we encountered some chemicals and other things that we recognized as parts or ingredients, if you will, for methamphetamine manufacturing,” Moshier said.
Local police consulted with officers from the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, who confirmed the items were components used in making methamphetamine, Moshier said. After further investigation, police examined in the same parking lot an older model Chevrolet pickup truck owned by one of the two men. Under the seat, officers found a soda bottle in which an active “cook,” or chemical reaction to produce the drug, appeared to be underway, he said.
“The information we have is that the individuals had already completed one cook using this method here already and they had only been here for two days,” Moshier said.
Arrested Thursday night were Jessica Jones, 29, of Fort Fairfield; Ezra Brady, 22, of Bridgewater; and Jesse Sawyer, 31, of Linneus, according to police. Each has been charged with a felony count of trafficking in drugs — a Class B offense that carries a possible penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
Jones also has been charged with misdemeanor drug possession, while Sawyer had a warrant out for his arrest for failing to appear in court in Aroostook County, according to police.
Moshier said Jones was on probation for previous drug violations and that Sawyer faces two charges of drug trafficking, one for the meth and another for “a significant amount” of oxycodone that was found in their hotel room. He added that police also found more than $12,000 in cash in the room, which officers believe are proceeds from drug sales.
MDEA Director Roy McKinney, who was at a pharmacists’ conference in Bar Harbor on Friday morning, went to the hotel to observe the response effort. McKinney said the MDEA is concerned about the number of meth lab incidents that police have come across in recent years. The volatility of the chemical compounds used to make meth pose public safety hazards, he said, and the response effort to meth lab incidents can soak up a lot of time and money.
A dozen or so busts each year, McKinney said, “appear to be small numbers but they’re not small numbers because you see the level of resources that have to be brought to bear on these issues. We have Ellsworth police here, emergency medical services are here, [the] fire [department] may be here, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and other law enforcement. The cost is quite substantial.”