Officials: 2 local busts show growth of meth in communities

Montgomery County officials held a press conference Thursday to announce a large methamphetamine bust. Seated (from left) are Coroner Kent Harshbarger, Sheriff Phil Plummer and Jail Treatment Coordinator Teresa Russell. STEVE MAGUIRE/STAFF

Guns, money and more than 100 pounds of methamphetamine were seized in two separate investigations in Greene and Montgomery counties recently, and officials are citing statistics that show the Miami Valley is in the midst of a new drug epidemic.

A search warrant executed Oct. 21 by the A.C.E. Task Force uncovered nearly 95 pounds of meth in a Greene County apartment, the largest meth seizure in the county’s history, according to the sheriff’s office.

The three-bedroom apartment in Bath Twp. had few personal items in it and appeared to be a “stash house,” according to a news release. The drug was in more than 90 packages wrapped in duct tape, officials said.

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In Dayton, RANGE Task Force agents acted on a tip and discovered 37 pounds of the manufactured street drug, also known as ice, at a home in the 1700 block of Salem Avenue, according to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. The task force also seized a large amount of crack cocaine, marijuana firearms and $100,000 in cash, according to a news release.

The seizures point to a disturbing trend that meth is replacing heroin as the new drug of choice that is “going to be a problem for our community,” Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer said during a Thursday news conference.

“We’re seeing a huge increase in meth in this community,” Plummer said. “Our heroin addicts were usually pretty low key. These meth addicts are usually up for four days straight. They’re wired. They want to fight. They’re committing a lot of crimes … They are constantly chasing the next high.”

Montgomery County Jail Treatment Coordinator Teresa Russell said inmates who were on meth in previous years were not as “psychotic” as addicts coming in this year. She said jails across the state are reporting similar trends.

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“This time last year, if an individual came in and self-reported that they were using meth, usually as the high went away so did some of the behavior,” Russell said. “Now what we’re seeing is it looks like a permanent psychosis and doctors are struggling to figure out what to treat or how to treat it.”

Montgomery County Coroner Dr. Kent Harshbarger said the switch from heroin to meth is apparent at his office. In 2014 and 2015, meth was mentioned in five causes of death, and this year it’s estimated to be a factor in 70 deaths, he said.

Harshbarger said his office estimates there will be 260 fewer overdose deaths this year. The Miami Valley Crime Lab, also located at the coroner’s office, is expected to receive 2,500 meth submissions this year, up from 300 last year, he said.

Harshbarger said the health risks are serious, especially with the impurities being mixed with the meth product.

“Basically any pharmaceutical that exists is being put in with the manufacture of these compounds,” he said. “(Meth) is a very toxic compound. It damages and destroys everything it touches.”

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Harshbarger added that unexplainable tumors and infections are being reported nationwide and may be linked to the impurities that are mixed into the drug during manufacturing.

The suspect arrested in Greene County is 30-year-old Michael Bailey; the suspect in the Dayton case is 63-year-old Charles Anthony Minor. Each face drug trafficking and possession charges.

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