The economy has made things difficult for everyone. But one industry that tends to thrive in hard times is crime, either organized groups or individual criminals. Bank robbery, auto theft, white-collar crimes like embezzlement, and of course illicit drug manufacture and sales. In my years as an Alabama criminal defense lawyer, I have represented clients who have been accused of alleged drug possession, drug trafficking, manufacturing, illegal growing of marijuana, and meth lab operation, to name just a few.
Working in Birmingham, AL, I have also seen the growth of the meth industry as a way for some people to illegally make money in a down economy. Recent reports show that police have shut down two alleged meth labs in the West Alabama area.
According to police, raids in Hale and Pickens counties halted operation of what authorities sais were two separate methamphetamine labs. Four people were reportedly taken into custody, with police officials in both counties searching for additional suspects.
Pickens County Sheriff David Abston described one of the suspects, Christopher Wayne Kelly, 28, as a “serial burglar.” He is asking burglary victims in four West Alabama counties to report missing items. Kelly, a Tuscaloosa resident who had been staying at his grandfather's camp house in Pickens County, was taken into custody on Sept. 1, according to the authorities.
The man was charged with third-degree burglary, second-degree theft, manufacturing a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, first-degree possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. Kelly was placed in the Pickens County Jail on $541,500 bail.
According to reports, police searched Kelly's residence and turned up a suspected methamphetamine lab, plus several items believed to have been stolen during a burglary in south Pickens County on August 31. Pickens County police believe that the suspect took similar items from hunting camps in Tuscaloosa, Greene, Sumter and Pickens counties.
Law enforcement officials are also looking for 33-year-old Christopher Scruggs, an associate of Kelly's who has several warrants out for his arrest in Jefferson and Tuscaloosa counties.
In Hale County, officials charged three suspects with manufacturing methamphetamine. According to reports, Charles Tucker, 39, and his wife, Tina Tucker, 35, were taken into custody, along with 34-year-old Wade Johnson, at the Tucker's Millwood Road residence in Greensboro. The bust was the result of an undercover investigation, which led authorities to the home where at least three suspected methamphetamine labs were in plain sight.
Police say that all three Hale County suspects face charges of trafficking methamphetamine, manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine, and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.
The undercover probe that identified the Tuckers as suspects also led to the identification of other suspects who sold drugs to agents of the 4th Judicial Drug and Violent Crime Task Force. Authorities said that warrants and indictments have been obtained for other suspects as well.
Alleged meth labs found in Hale, Pickens counties, TuscaloosaNews.com, September 10, 2009