Citrus County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Tactical Impact Unit (TIU) detectives on Thursday night discovered 24 one-pot methamphetamine labs at a nearby double-wide mobile home in Lecanto.
The CCSO said on Friday they were flabbergasted at the "whopping amount" of labs at the home.
Theodore Gene Benfield, 37, and Lesle Evon Benfield, 35, both of 678 Fairlane Ter., Lecanto, were arrested and charged with manufacturing methamphetamine with/children under 16 present, possession of a listed chemical with intent to manufacture a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia with a $250,500 bond.
Three children, all under 16 years-of-age, were removed from the home by the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
“I’ve never seen this many one pot methamphetamine labs in a single home,” said TIU Detective Aidan Marshall. “TIU methamphetamine detectives and Fire Rescue hazmat operators could not even enter the residence without protective breathing apparatuses due to the fumes. The conditions inside the home were absolutely deplorable and it is unbelievable that parents would subject their children to these extremely hazardous conditions.”
The “one-pot” method, also known as “shake and bake,” has become popular in recent years because it was designed to get around laws restricting the sale of ingredients used to make meth. By using something as simple as an empty two-liter soda bottle, common ingredients are combined to produce a chemical reaction which results in a crystalline powder that users smoke, snort or inject.
The process poses a huge risk to those producing meth and anyone near one-pot cooks due to the buildup of pressure inside the “pot” and the subsequent exposure of certain ingredients to the air. These reactions cause explosions, fires and potentially fatal chemical inhalation.
Locally, most meth manufacturing arrests are made after discovering one to two one-pot labs. The CCSO said that, To date, it has never encountered a meth operation this large.
Sheriff Jeff Dawsy has made arresting meth manufacturers a huge priority for the agency, the CCSO said today.
Earlier in the year, all deputies were trained on how to spot meth lab materials and labs, increasing the safety of agency personnel and residents. Fire Rescue personnel also respond to meth lab scenes as they are specially trained in hazardous materials handling. The Sheriff’s commitment to this initiative has made Citrus County one of the leaders in the state for making meth lab arrests, the CCSO said.
“I have said it before and I will continue to say it, we will not tolerate meth production in this County,” Sheriff Dawsy said today. “So if you’re going to do it, save us all the trouble and get out of Citrus. If not, just know that the clock is ticking until we find you.”