Police make ‘shroom’ bust
NASHUA – Police busted an illegal mushroom-growing operation Wednesday in what could be the first drug seizure of its kind in Nashua.
Nashua [New Hampshire] Police officer Gilbert Caleb stopped Andrew O’Neill, 25, of 105 Spit Brook Road, during the early morning hours of March 10 after spotting him moving items from his home into a van parked nearby, according to Nashua Police Lt. Scott Hammond.
In the back of the van, Caleb spotted items – including sifting trays, Mason jars, soil and bales of hay – that can be used to manufacture drugs. That kicked off the department’s Narcotics Intelligence Division investigation, Hammond said.
O’Neill was arrested initially on an outstanding bench warrant for a misdemeanor at Nashua District Court, Hammond said.
Police searched O’Neill’s home and van and recovered almost 2 pounds of psilocybin mushrooms, Hammond said, along with more growing equipment.
Because the spores used to grow the hallucinogenic mushrooms are toxic, police called in the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Clandestine Lab Team to safely clean out the area, Hammond said.
Cocaine, heroin, marijuana and even methamphetamine are more common drugs for police to deal with in the city, Hammond said, so it was doubly surprising to police to find a fairly extensive growing operation here.
Most “shrooms” that users get here are grown on the West Coast, he said.
“It shows me that I guess there’s an increase of it going on here, then,” Hammond said. “We don’t deal with a whole lot of it. I haven’t seen it for a number of years, so this is pretty significant to find people manufacturing it.”
Hammond said he has never seen a mushroom-growing operation in Nashua.
Once the spores injected into the Mason jars begin to sprout, they’re toxic to breathe, Hammond said, which is why the DEA team was called.
“It’s almost like taking the mushroom itself,” Hammond said.
Police said there is no danger to the public or the building and the building’s owner has been instructed how to properly clean the apartment.
Hammond credited Caleb for initiating the investigation. He said Caleb first contacted O’Neill because it looked like he was in the process of moving at around 2:30 a.m.
He then spotted the unusual items in the back of the open van.
“The officer did a great job,” Hammond said.
O’Neill is charged with possession of psilocybin mushrooms and manufacturing psilocybin mushrooms, both of which are second offenses and class A felonies punishable by up to 15 years in prison, Hammond said.
Narcotics detectives are continuing to investigate and expect to make more arrests, he said.
By JOSEPH G. COTE
Saturday, March 13, 2010