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NTF breaks up ‘Nazi' meth lab in Holtville

September 10, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — The Imperial County Narcotic Task Force broke up a methamphetamine lab in this city this morning, arresting two men allegedly involved in the drug's production.

Around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, Holtville police received a call that a suspicious odor was coming from a house in the 600 block of Walnut Avenue.

When police responded they also noticed an odor coming from 654 Walnut, at which time NTF agents were called to the scene. Police then waited for NTF agents to arrive.

Ernie Limon, assistant NTF commander, said NTF units arrived about midnight to find a meth lab in operation inside a shed next to the residence.

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Limon said the lab was "fuming" and there was a pronounced smell coming from the shed.

Limon said apparatus and chemicals typically used in the production of meth were found in the shed.

Two men, whose identities were not available by presstime this morning, were arrested at the scene. Limon said they would be booked into the county jail on suspicion of manufacturing the narcotic.

One of the men tried to flee down an alley near the house but quickly gave up when he realized the number of authorities in the area.

The men were arrested without further incident.

Limon said because of the safety risk, those residing on either side of 654 Walnut were evacuated.

Limon added the entire block was cordoned off while authorities removed the contents of the lab.

He said it is suspected the lab had been in operation for a few months.

Limon called the break-up of the lab significant because of the safety risk it posed to people in the area and because of the quantity materials found.

He also said NTF agents have busted 12 meth labs since January.

Limon added in 2000 NTF agents were involved in breaking up only about four such labs in the Imperial Valley.

He said a trend agents are now noticing is that a specific kind of lab, known as "Nazi" labs, are being used in the Valley.

Such labs, he said, are unique to this area because the chemicals used for the production of the narcotic come from a type of agricultural fertilizer known as anhydrous ammonium.

Limon said the fertilizer is kept in tanks near fields and those involved in producing meth steal the fertilizer.

He also said lithium from batteries is used in the production of the narcotic.

Labs using such elements for the production of meth are known as "Nazi" labs, Limon said, because the Nazis used those same elements to make the narcotic during World War II.

He said meth labs found in areas outside the Valley have used other methods to produce the narcotic.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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