Finding a crack cocaine lab in an apartment in an exclusive Valencia neighborhood was not surprising to Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, but the way the drugs were being packaged was .
Deputies said 17.6 pounds of cocaine found this week in an apartment in the 24000 block of Valencia Boulevard had been converted into “crack cookies” and were apparently being readied for distribution in Pringles corn chip cans.
The round wafers of hard cocaine fit snugly into the cans, which come with plastic caps. Narcotics investigators said the so-called “cookies” could be stacked in the cans and hidden beneath a short stack of potato chips.
“On a normal traffic stop, an officer looking into a car wouldn’t give a can of potato chips a second thought,” said a narcotics investigator who helped make the drug seizure.
No arrests were made during the raid Wednesday afternoon at the apartment. An informant had told deputies that the apartment was being used as a “crack” laboratory.
After watching the apartment and obtaining a search warrant, deputies entered the unoccupied apartment and found the cocaine--worth an estimated $200,000--along with other chemicals and drug paraphernalia, including 48 beakers used in the process of turning powdered cocaine into wafers of crack. The bases of the beakers were the same diameter as the potato chip cans, deputies said.
During the search the deputies noticed several empty Pringles cans and uneaten potato chips stored in plastic bags. Deputies said they realized that the crack made in the beakers was formed into discs exactly the diameter of the cans.
“We found these cocaine cookies were able to fit in the cans,” said the undercover deputy. “We had never come across this and we’ve got no idea how long they were doing it this way. They must have thought this was a neat idea.”
About 260 cocaine cookies were found in the apartment, enough to fill many potato chip cans, deputies said.
“It’s pretty innovative,” said Lt. Gary Rogness, who heads the Los Angeles Police Department drug unit in the San Fernando Valley. “I’ve never heard of it before.”
Deputies said the Sheriff’s Department narcotics unit in the Santa Clarita Valley will circulate a bulletin to other drug units in Southern California, alerting officers to the unusual use of the potato chip cans.
Meanwhile, deputies were hunting for the occupants of the apartment where the lab was found. Deputies said its location in a relatively crime-free, upscale neighborhood was not unusual. Drug dealers frequently seek to work and live in such neighborhoods for comfort and to avoid the police activity more common in high-crime areas, they said.