By Matt Pearce
3:26 PM PST, January 2, 2014
This just might be a case of life imitating art: On Thursday, Florida officials announced that they arrested a "Breaking Bad" contest winner on suspicion of helping run a nationwide drug ring out of his home.
However, instead of making meth, like the chemistry teacher in the popular show, Ryan Lee Carroll and two other men converted their apartment's garage into an elaborate lab for making synthetic marijuana, likely for large-scale distribution, according to the Lee County Sheriff's Office.
"Inside the home, detectives discovered large rubber bins containing byproducts of the substance, shelves full of containers with thousands of packages of finished product and hundreds of uncashed money orders totaling thousands of dollars," the office said in a statement, adding that clues pointed to the men being involved in "a large-scale distribution of the illegal substance across the country."
Also found: a hazmat suit apparently signed by "Breaking Bad" cast members. Carroll, 28, reportedly won a raffle to watch the show's finale with the cast at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Sept. 30.
“I think we’re going to be in hazmat suits with them,” Carroll said of the cast in an interview with gonaples.com in September. “It’s going to be crazy.” He said that he'd started to watch the show in 2012.
The Lee County Sheriff's Office said deputies found two other addresses where Carroll, James Lee Allen, 35, and Benjamin Scott Smith, 33, used to make and store their brand of synthetic weed, called "Spice." The trio were arrested Tuesday and charged with the manufacture and sale of the drug.
Officials also said they found more than 700 pounds of 79,000 individually packaged packets of synthetic marijuana, valued at $1.25 million. "The investigation has put a large dent in the availability of 'Spice' nationally," the sheriff's office said.
Synthetic marijuana is illegal under both Florida and federal law. One study has suggested that the drug is second only to regular marijuana in popularity among high school seniors.
“We are starting the year with an aggressive approach at combating illicit drugs in our community," Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott said in a statement. "It is concerning and we will not tolerate it.”
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