Port Orange meth lab busted
Authorities say it's one of the area's largest
PORT ORANGE -- Narcotics agents dismantled what they called one of the largest methamphetamine manufacturing operations ever found in Volusia County -- capable of producing $10,000 worth of the highly addictive drug weekly -- Thursday morning with the arrest of seven people and destruction of two labs.
A hellish chemistry set of bottled brake fluid, propane burners, beakers and various containers of other drug-making ingredients were spread over the driveway next door to 1209 Harbour Point Drive. Agents with the Eastside Narcotics Task Force also found 22 grams of powder meth and 98 grams of meth oil in the duplex.
Hours earlier, about 6 a.m., a simultaneous raid at 4129 Treadway Road in Samsula wrapped up a four-month undercover investigation into the manufacture and sale of meth, as well as the illegal sale of prescription medicine.
"This is a very large lab for this area," task force supervisor Tim Herring of the Volusia County Sheriff's Office said of the Harbour Point operation. "One of the largest for this area. It was capable of producing 14 grams of product per cook, (worth $100 per gram)."
Thursday's raid brought expressions of gratitude from other Harbour Point subdivision residents, who said suspicious activity was common at the two-story home.
"I am happy to see something done," Patricia Gerbrands said as she unloaded groceries a few doors to the north. "It is a relief."
In addition to seizing the drugs, agents charged six people at the Harbour Point location with trafficking in methamphetamine, manufacturing methamphetamine, and possession of listed chemicals. Those charged were: Cecil Fore, 47, Steven Johnson, 39, and Danny Montgomery, 61, all of Port Orange; Angel Sommo, 28, Edgewater; Brandy Tremblay, 33, and Jason Wagers, 43, both of Daytona Beach.
Johnson was additionally charged with trafficking in Schedule II drugs and possession of ammunition by a felon. Court records showed all those arrested Thursday had criminal records, some with many arrests. Johnson was awaiting trial on July accusations of purchasing meth.
County property appraiser records show the home is owned by Lawrence and Peggy Johnson of Chicago. Several neighbors said the owners are the parents of Steven Johnson and that they work for the Chicago Police Department. A spokeswoman for that agency said she could neither confirm nor deny that information.
At the Samsula home of Francesco Vezza, 53, he was charged with principal to sale of methamphetamine and sale and delivery of Schedule II narcotics, including Roxycodone. Vezza had the equipment for a meth lab, but had yet to start one, officials said.
According to agents, investigation of the Port Orange and Samsula homes started in July. Narcotics agents made several drug purchases over the four months leading up to Thursday's raids. More arrests and charges are pending, agents at the scene said.
"You never know what kind of neighborhood you are living in," Harbour Point resident Tom Boucher said, although he said he had suspicions about the residents of 1209 Harbour Point Drive.
He and others, who did not want to be identified, said it was normal for people to come and go from that address at all hours. One neighbor said he made several complaints about the occupants to local authorities, but saw little results.
"This was no surprise," Boucher said. "It was obviously hinky."
By MARK I. JOHNSON