By James Clark | email
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - The last of 17 people charged in a "smurfing" conspiracy made his initial appearance Wednesday in federal court. Federal official say smurfing the process of buying raw ingredients in small amounts and combining them into larger amounts to make illegal drugs. Court records say in this case it was pseudoephedrine for use in making methamphetamines.
U.S. Marshals and DPS officers tracked down Gary Alan Jones, 48, of Lubbock Friday night in Bledsoe, which is due west of Lubbock on the Texas/New Mexico line.
Roughly half of Jones' co-defendants are charged in federal court with the other half charged in state court. A search warrant in the case says Jones and others were collecting pseudoephedrine in small, legal amounts at pharmacies all over Lubbock and South Plains. Recent changes to the law make it difficult to buy large amounts of pseudoephedrine, thus the need for meth makers to buy it in small doses.
(CLICK HERE) to see a PDF copy of the search warrant of Jones' home in the 4400 block of 37th street.
It was decided on Wednesday that Jones will stay behind bars an extra three business days. A judge will then decide if he will be able to bond out of jail. Prosecutors think a possible maximum sentence for Jones will be life in prison.
The term smurfing is used to describe a drug user's way of getting around laws aimed at combating the production of methamphetamine. Basically it means buying up the maximum allowed quantities of pseudoephedrine- based medicines at one pharmacy and then going to another.
Back in 2005, the Texas legislature passed a bill that requires pharmacies to keep tablet forms of pseudoephedrine behind the counter. Market Street Pharmacist Troy Burke says an online database helps keep track of how much is sold.
"Our database uses that information to log and track usage daily and monthly," said Burke.
In 2006 Congress passed a law that states customers are limited to 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine based products per day and 9 grams per month.
Customers must scan their driver's license and sign their name when making a purchase. Burke says before these laws, people went to desperate measures.
"People would take the package and rip it open and take the pills and just leave it on the shelf, so they were shoplifting," said Burke.
While new laws may help curve the problem, they won't stop it. That's why law enforcement agencies continue to crack down.
Charged with one count of conspiracy to possess pseudoephedrine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine and to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams of more of methamphetamine are:
Gary Alan Jones, 48, of Lubbock
Kathy Jolee Allen, aka "Kat," 35, of Lubbock
Danny Jack Allen, 42, of Lubbock
Shannon Ailene Nolan, 25, of Lubbock
Dee Je Estep, aka "Scout," 32, of Lubbock
Kelly Joann Spruiell, 35, of Lubbock
Lonnie Ray Warren, aka "Latch," 48, of Meadow, Texas
Gordon Michael Rives, aka "Hippie," 39, of Lubbock
Copyright 2010 KCBD. All rights reserved.