Probe into Sampson meth labs nets arrests, pleas
Posted December 22, 2008 12:47 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:10 p.m. EDT
Clinton, N.C. — Eight people have pleaded guilty to federal drug charges in a 10-month investigation into methamphetamine labs in Sampson County, authorities said Monday.
Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton said he called in federal agents after his deputies had broken up 12 methamphetamine labs by the end of February – the same number of labs uncovered during all of 2007.
"It became apparent to me that it was really getting out of hand – the meth problem in this county," Thornton said Monday.
According to state statistics, Sampson County ranks second in North Carolina in the number of methamphetamine lab busts this year, with 24. Neighboring Harnett County ranks first.
Thornton said he wanted both the manpower assistance federal authorities could offer and the tougher sentences federal judges could hand out to drug offenders.
During the past 10 months, "Operation Juiced Out" led to the following people being charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess methamphetamine:
Jackie Craig Hobbs, 42, of Clinton; Samuel Faircloth, 42, of Autryville; Corey Reed Harmon, 20, of Fayetteville; Stevie McLenny, 51, of Roseboro; William Henry Paschall, 32, of Stedman; Sabrina Royal, 23, of Clinton; Ramon Singleton, 29, of Newton Grove; and Adam Strickland, 23 of Faison.
All have pleaded guilty to the charges and are awaiting sentencing, authorities said. Paschall, Royal and Strickland also pleaded guilty to federal weapons charges, authorities said.
"(They) seem to be the worst of the methamphetamine producers," U.S. Attorney George Holding said.
The suspects cooked at least 10 pounds of methamphetamine in their homes, Holding said, employing what's called the "Nazi method" of using lithium strips taken from batteries and anhydrous ammonia to start a chemical reaction with ephedrine extracted from cold medicines.
Holding called Hobbs the key player in the operation, noting he worked under the guise of an air conditioning repairman to buy large quantities of anhydrous ammonia, which he then traded to the others for a cut of the methamphetamine produced.
Thornton said "Operation Juiced Out" has helped reduce the amount of methamphetamine on local streets.
"The amount of meth that's been found on (people) or in their possession has dramatically decreased. We probably don't find near the amount of meth on individuals than we once had," he said.