Pasco deputies uncover mushroom drug operation
NEW PORT RICHEY - Shrooms, magic mushrooms and psychedelic mushrooms are some of the colloquialisms used to describe psilocybin mushrooms that were researched by Timothy Leary and popularized by the hippie subculture in the 1960s.
They haven't been hugely popular in decades, but authorities stumbled on two local labs and shut them down Wednesday, said Pasco County Sheriff's Office spokesman Kevin Doll.
New Port Richey Police officers had been working an undercover operation setting up marijuana buys with 42-year-old Gerald Hannafin Jr. Wednesday, Pasco Sheriff's Vice and Narcotics detectives executed a search warrant at Hannafin's home at 8852 Chilton Drive, where he was arrested on charges of marijuana and paraphernalia possession. Once inside, the detectives discovered the psilocybin lab.
Drug Enforcement Administration agents were called out and a team responded to the home with a chemist who broke down the lab safely and preserved evidence, Doll said.
Pasco vice detectives then conducted a "knock-and-talk" at Hannafin's father's home at 5421 Charles St. in the Kirby Heights subdivision where they discovered a larger lab, said Doll.
Gerald Hannafin Sr., 68, has not yet been arrested but a felony amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia was also found in the residence.
The investigation continues, and neither man has been charged in connection to the mushroom labs.
Detectives, however, think the father and son team were involved in manufacturing the mushrooms for the "express purpose of extracting psilocybin," Doll said. Psilocybin is a strong hallucinogenic obtained from the mushrooms.
Authorities recovered more than 2,300 mushroom plants growing in separate mason jars. At the Charles Street lab, they also found several pounds of suspected finished psilocybin product. Doll said the setup at this home could be considered a psilocybin extraction "super lab."
The agencies contacted a contractor to complete the cleanup. The total cost of investigating, dismantling the labs and cleaning up is estimated at more than $50,000.
Doll said he doesn't recall seeing any such labs in the county in recent years.
"We've come across kids in cow pastures every now and then," he said, referring to the mushrooms often growing under solid cow waste. "The trend nowadays is prescription pills."
By LISA A. DAVIS
The Tampa Tribune
Published: April 16, 2010