Opening day of horseshoes at the Annex YMA Club had a more exciting start than usual Thursday, as cops swept in next door to bust the state’s first known factory of a resurgent hallucinogenic drug.
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New Haven police, state cops and federal drug agents converged on 548 Woodward Ave. Thursday at 2 p.m. and uncovered a basement laboratory where a man was cooking up dimethyltryptamine, or DMT.
A 32-year-old man (in photo) was arrested on narcotics charges and taken away in a prisoner van. Cops also arrested two other residents of the two-family house.
The bust appears to be the first in the state involving DMT, according to Lt. J. Paul Vance, spokesman for the state police.
The potent psychedelic drug is known as “Businessman’s LSD” or “45-minute psychosis,” Vance said. It offers a psychedelic experience, but with a shorter trip than other hallucinogens like LSD, according to the Department of Justice.
DMT was popular in the 70s and is making a “comeback,” said Vance. Materials seized in the home would have produced “several hundred thousand dollars” of the drug, he estimated.
Thursday afternoon and evening, the quiet, leafy Woodward Avenue was abuzz with cops. At least a dozen undercover agents, who sported brightly worded police t-shirts for the day, were milling around the scene, securing a chemical-filled RV and guarding the front door of the home. One wore a hood and a face mask to hide his identity from media cameras.
Police believe the drug was manufactured in an RV parked in the driveway of the home, and cooked in a basement lab with boarded-up windows. The final product of the lab was a yellow, crystalline substance that can be snorted, smoked or injected, police said. The chemist apparently learned the trade on the Internet: cops found papers printed out from Web sites with instructions on how to make the drug, according to Sgt. Rob Criscuolo of the city narcotics unit.
Thursday’s bust came after a month-long investigation by undercover cops in the city narcotics squad, with help from the state police. The investigation began with an anonymous tip from a neighbor.
“That tip is what brought us here today,” said Criscuolo.
The neighbor told police that suspicious-looking people were moving canisters of chemicals and glassware in and out of the RV. Cops cased the house and obtained warrants to search the first- and second-story apartments in the home, as well as two cars, Criscuolo said.
At about 2 p.m. Thursday, they closed in on the home. A man and woman on the first floor were “compliant” with the search, said Criscuolo. A second-floor resident was not. He was arrested for interfering with a search warrant. The man on the first floor was pulled out in handcuffs around 5:30 p.m. The woman was also arrested, according to Vance.
As of 6:30, police were still securing the scene, waiting for federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents to sweep in with hazmat suits and clean up the chemicals. DEA agents would likely be there into the night scrubbing the scene and assessing the street value of the drug materials, said Vance.
He called the factory “highly unusual” for the quiet, residential neighborhood.
Meanwhile, a group of men behind the Annex YMA Club were throwing the first horseshoes of the season in their annual summer league. The club sits right next to the alleged drug lab. The group meets every Thursday in the summers, competing at chucking horseshoes at stakes in the ground. The adjacent bocce ball courts get hopping on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, too. The courts lend a clear view to the back of the suspected drug home.
“Are they giving out samples?” cracked one sandy-haired man upon learning of the unusual drug factory.
“Hey, you want some DMT?” cracked another man to a player arriving at the court. “It’s going cheap. I’ve gotta move this stuff tonight!”
Lew Maturo sidled up to the undercover agents to ask what was going on at the nearby house, then returned to hurl two horseshoes.
“This is not good close to a social club like this,” said Maturo.
“That could have been dangerous,” he said. “They could have blown up.”
by Melissa Bailey
May 28, 2009 8:58 PM
New Haven Independent