Drug task force to go after 'smurfers'

Group targets those who assist with production of meth

By Mitchell Kline • THE TENNESSEAN • July 26, 2009


FRANKLIN — Seven people are facing methamphetamine charges on Monday's Criminal Circuit Court docket.

Six face a charge called promotion of methamphetamine manufacture. One is charged with initiating the process to manufacture meth.

The promotion charge can be applied to anyone who provides a single ingredient to make meth or assists the maker in anyway, including allowing the use of a home or building for a "cook."

Joey Kimble, director of the 21st Judicial District Drug Task Force, said there's likely to be more of these cases as the task force cracks down on what law enforcement agents call "smurfers."

These are people who buy small amounts of cold medications, which contain the ingredients to make meth, and sell them to a cook. They can get as much as $35 for a $5 box of cold medicine.

"We're seeing a lot more of these cases," Kimble said. "We're starting to charge people who are going from pharmacy to pharmacy buying more than their limit of pseudoephedrine products."

Under state law, a person can buy up to 9 grams of pseudoephedrine-based medicines each month. These purchases are tracked in pharmacy logs.

Kimble said meth makers have developed an easier way to cook their ingredients, using plastic soda bottles. He said this has led to an increased amount of meth being produced, because more people can create the highly addictive and dangerous drug.

Arrests began June 2

On June 2, task force agent Scott Jones and a deputy went to the home at 5380 B Hargrove Road to arrest Angel Hargrove. An arrest report states that they detected the odor of meth and saw a pile of items used to make the drug. While there, Hargrove, 31, and Joe Pratt, 37, arrived in a pickup. Jones reported that Pratt admitted to making meth. A grand jury met in July and indicted Hargrove and Pratt for promotion of methamphetamine manufacture. They will be arraigned on Monday.

Also indicted in July were Marvin Fitzgerald and Terry E. Baker. The men were in a vehicle that contained a can of camping fuel, household lye and two boxes of pseudoephedrine pills. They admitted to being involved in the manufacturing of meth and have been charged with promotion of methamphetamine manufacture. They also face arraignment on Monday.

There are three other men charged with participating in making meth. Their cases will come before Judge James Martin III for review.



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