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7 Held in Raid on Methamphetamine Lab in Pomona

December 05, 1994|ROBERT J. LOPEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pomona police raided a clandestine drug laboratory just one block from department headquarters early Sunday morning, arresting seven people and seizing about $50,000 worth of increasingly popular methamphetamine.

Acting on a tip, officers swooped down on the lab shortly after midnight, also confiscating several guns along with the chemicals used to make the illicit stimulant, said Lt. Greg Hamill. Police estimated that the lab was producing about half a pound, or $50,000 worth, of the drug daily, but they did not know how long the facility had been operating.

Long the drug of choice among outlaw biker gangs, methamphetamine has become popular among some teen-agers hooked by its potent, addictive high. A central nervous system stimulant, methamphetamine is similar in effect to cocaine, but its high can last much longer, authorities say.

"It appears to be coming back and spreading outside of the biker gangs," Hamill said.

The drug--known on the street as speed, crank, tweak or ice--is easily manufactured with chemicals largely available at drugstores. It is often snorted but can be smoked or injected.

Arrested at the Pomona lab were Richard Fraley, 27; Mario Baca, 23; Leonard Gutierrez, 24; Dustin Kordeki, 20; Dereke Beellen, 18, and two juveniles whose names and ages were not released, Hamill said.

The suspects were allegedly working in a back-yard toolshed, which is separated from police headquarters by a fire station and a National Guard armory. Hamill said the lab may have only recently been set up because police had not received complaints about strong chemical odors common in such operations.

As officers approached the shed from an alley, he said, they could smell the chemicals.

Sunday's action was the latest in a number of lab seizures in the east San Gabriel Valley, which authorities say has one of the highest concentrations of speed labs in the nation. Nearly three-fourths of the labs raided this year by a regional task force in four Southern California counties have been in the east San Gabriel Valley.

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