27 Feb 2018
- By Bryan Manabat – [email protected] – Variety News Staff
A clandestine ‘Meth Lab’ run by two suspects using a so-called “shake and bake” method was uncovered by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency and the CNMI Drug Enforcement Task Force after executing a search warrant on a hotel room and a Dandan residence.
DEA arrested two suspects and are also actively investigating a numbers of individuals involved in the conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine or “ice”.
According to the DEA, a pharmacy reported the curious behavior and suspicious purchasing patterns of certain individuals buying “cold medicine” that contained pseudo-ephedrine (Sudafed).
To purchase a medicine containing an active pseudo-ephedrine, an individual must present valid identification and is limited to 3.6 grams per day or a total of 9 grams for a 30-day period, stated 18 year veteran DEA special agent Kirk F. Johns in his affidavit filed at the U.S. District Court for the NMI on Monday.
Accompanying Johns’ affidavit is a criminal complaint against Vincent David Cabrera Jr. also known as Bong, and Eugene Blas Repeki aka Uncle, charging the two defendants with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.
In their investigation, Johns stated, they learned that a female would call the pharmacy and inquire about which cold medicines they had in stock.
When the pharmacy staffer informed the caller that they had Sudagest 60mg in stock, shortly thereafter, a male individual would arrive at the pharmacy and ask for the 60 mg cold medicine, buying two boxes of 30 pills each (for a total of 2,952 mg of active ingredient.)
After five minutes, another male individual would arrive at the pharmacy and ask for the same medicine said the DEA agent.
The pharmacy sold the other male individual 1 box of 30 pills of Sudagest 60 mg with 1,476 mg of active ingredient.
Johns, in his affidavit, disclosed that the two men who bought the cold medicine with active pseudo-ephedrine knew each other and left the pharmacy in the same car.
The DEA reported that when they checked the medication-purchase log file at the pharmacy, Cabrera purchased medicine with active pseudo-ephedrine on six occasions for a total of 14,242 mg of active pseudo-ephedrine from August 6, 2017 to Oct. 15, 2017.
Repeki purchased a total of 5,940 mg of active pseudo-ephedrine on three occasions at the same pharmacy said Johns.
Johns also disclosed that a tipster provided information that Cabrera was manufacturing “ice” in Saipan using the “shake and bake” method that he learned in Guam while staying there. The special agent noted that Cabrera served a prison sentence on a federal drug conviction.
The informant also told the DEA that a number of people purchase cold medicine for Cabrera and that he usually cooks “ice” at his friend’s house or lets it cook in the trunk of a rental car while they drive around.
The informant also led the DEA agent to Cabrera’s house in Dandan where he allegedly cooks “ice” in the back. The “ice”, added the informant is of good quality and is made using a plastic 2-liter container. According to the informant, Cabrera’s group commonly mixes it with “ice” from China sold in Saipan.
Moreover, the informant told Johns that the drugs “cooked” are usually consumed by “close friends” of Cabrera and that he does not really sell it.
On Feb 25, 2018, the federal agents and local authorities executed a search warrant signed by Superior Court Associate Teresa Kim-Tenorio at two locations: a hotel room and a Dandan residence suspected to be either active meth labs or inactive meth labs.
Upon entering the hotel room, inestigators were immediately hit with an overwhelming chemical odor said Johns.
Cabrera was apprehended in the hotel room without any incident.
In a freely given statement to the investigators, Cabrera said there was no finished product in the room and that all the stuff in his room was trash and he was ready to dispose of it and that “his hotel room was 100% safe.”
Cabrera stated that the ‘cooking’ has ended and that the yellow stuff inside the water bottle was used lye and was trash.
When asked about the cold medicine he bought at the pharmacy, Cabrera said “he has sinus problems” and that he has a prescription for cold medicine.
He also told the investigators that he “never told anybody to go to the pharmacy,” to buy him pills, “I get it myself.”
At both locations, authorities seized various materials and paraphernalia for manufacturing “ice”.
Cabrera said the drain-opener liquid seized in his hotel room was to unclog drains. Johns told Cabrera that it didn’t make sense at a hotel with house keeping.
Cabrera did not respond and remained silent, said Johns. Then later Cabrera said “I think I need to stop and ask for a lawyer.”
Repeki, when asked about the seized materials at his residence, told the DEA agents that “the stuff at my house is not dangerous.”
Repeki stated that his good friend “Bong” usually cooked meth behind his house, but that he “thought he usually takes the stuff out of there.”
Repeki told the agent that he does not know how the meth cooking process is done.
But he told the investigators that it has a bad smell, like hair dye, but he did not know how it works.
According to Repeki, he does not know who buys cold medicine for Cabrera but did say that he has sinus problems and had been to the hospital for it.
He also said that he took some of the cold pills he bought, and the rest he gave to Cabrera.
Repeki estimated that Cabrera had been cooking meth for over a year and would charge $20 to $40 for his one-pot-type of meth.
On Monday, in the courtroom of Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo, Repeki appeared in the custody of the Department of Corrections for a bail hearing. Govendo imposed a $50,000 bail on Repeki who was charged with illegal possession of a controlled substance.
The clerk of court will appoint a private counsel to represent Repeki.
Assistant attorney general, Charles Lee appeared for the government.
No court information was as yet available related to Cabrera.
Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/102537-dea-uncovers-meth-lab