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Agents Make Biggest Meth Bust This Year By Gene Haagenson

11/24/06 - After a month of surveillance, agents of the methamphetamine task force moved in Friday night, seizing a super lab, and arresting two men. The bust happened inside a farmhouse on Floyd Avenue near Clinton in western Fresno County.

Agents think a farmworker bunkhouse west of Fresno has been operating undetected as a meth factory for at least three years.
"Boy, when you cook in a grape vineyard, in a basement at three in the morning, it gets hard to find you," said Robert Pennel of the State Bureau of Narcotics.

Agents believe the meth being produced here was destined for markets in the Midwest, the Northwest and Hawaii. Two suspects, both Mexican nationals were arrested, as they were about to cook another batch.

"When we went inside they already had different pieces of equipment set up and were ready to make another cook," Pennel said.

Pennel estimates each cook produced $500,000 worth of methamphetamine. Stopping meth production was a campaign priority for Fresno County's newly elected sheriff.

"The number one issue facing Fresno County law enforcement today is the devastating effect of methamphetamine. Meth is a societal weapon of mass destruction," said Fresno County Sheriff elect Margaret Mims.

Mims is not alone. A recent survey show's a majority of sheriff's nationwide list meth as their county's number one drug problem. Meth is also a big contributor to jail overcrowding. It's estimated one in five inmates is locked up for a crime related to meth use.

Despite a nationwide television campaign against meth. It seems to be growing.

The number of meth lab busts has dropped dramatically in recent years as much of the production has moved to Mexico. But it's still a relatively big problem in the Valley. Of the more than 200 busts in California over the past year, 160 have occurred in the Central Valley.