Grand Jury Indicts 10 More in Largest U.S. Meth Lab Sting
A federal grand jury in San Diego has issued a 14-count indictment charging 10 more people with the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine in the aftermath of a nine-month inter-agency sting operation that authorities have billed as the largest of its kind in U.S. history, officials reported Friday.
The death of a 21-year-old woman is also involved in the case.
The indictment issued Thursday alleges that the group conspired to manufacture 800 pounds of methamphetamine at three clandestine laboratories throughout the county.
Five of the group are already in custody on separate charges, while the remaining five are still at-large, Assistant U.S. Atty. D. Thomas Ferraro said.
The drug lab operation was among the biggest encountered by authorities in the investigation, dubbed Operation Crankcase, which resulted in the arrests of 100 people March 19. Twenty-three meth labs in San Diego County were shut down in the massive sweep, which involved about 350 officers from every law enforcement agency in the county.
The indictment Thursday was based on evidence gathered during the operation of Triple Neck Scientific Laboratory, a privately owned company that assisted the Drug Enforcement Administration in investigating the purchase of chemicals and equipment used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, Ferraro said.
The investigation is still considered active because more arrests stemming from Triple Neck’s operation are possible, Ferraro said.
The “Walters Organization,” as the group indicted Thursday was known, was allegedly headed by Martin Edward Walters, 21, of Mira Mesa. He is in County Jail on charges that include kidnaping and murder.
The indictment also charges Martin Edward Walters, his brother Vincent, and three other men who allegedly belong to the organization with kidnaping three people at gunpoint in an effort to obtain methamphetamine stolen from the group.
In another dimension of the case, the San Diego County district attorney’s office has filed additional kidnaping and murder charges in connection with the same incident, which resulted in the death last September of Kristine Reyes, 21. Reyes was killed after she; her boyfriend, Edward Michael Provencio, and an unnamed friend were allegedly abducted by Juan Antonio Lopez, one of the five men charged in the indictment.
Reyes was found dead in a vacant El Cajon house on Sept. 30, five days after her kidnaping. She died after breathing fumes from a toxic chemical placed on a gag covering her mouth. Lopez was arrested in connection with her death in December, and he remains in custody.
Authorities believe the five men were present and participated in Reyes’ death.
Ferraro said police were close to arresting Martin Edward Walters on drug charges when the murder occurred. "(Reyes’ death) really was an unfortunate thing,” Ferraro said.
Martin Edward Walters “had already involved himself with Triple Neck and had sold to undercover officers prior to (Reyes’) death,” Ferraro said.
Pipe Bomb Factory
A pipe bomb factory was found at Martin Edward Walters’ San Diego residence when investigators raided a suspected meth lab in 1987, Ferraro said.
Those charged with kidnaping along with Martin Edward Walters, Vincent and Lopez are Glenn Andrew Arnold, 22, and Michael (Satin) Lee Moore, 20. The five were also indicted on the drug charges. Vincent and Moore remain at-large.
Also indicted for the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine were Paul Elza Walters III, 25, and Michell Denise Walters, 18, who are in custody; Kirk (Troll) Bush, 21; Robert Lee Hall III, 26, and Steven (Barney) Kelly Barnett, 28, who are at large.
On May 26, a federal grand jury returned indictments against four other people who had purchased chemicals and equipment from Triple Neck. In that indictment, the four men, identified as Mexican citizens, are charged with the manufacture of 9.2 pounds of methamphetamine and with attempting to manufacture an additional 85 pounds at the time the site was discovered by DEA agents.