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Raid on Lancaster Lab Yields 126 Pounds of Methamphetamine

Drugs: A man suspected of running the operation at a remote ranch is sought by deputies.

January 15, 2002|GARIOT LOUIMA and ANDREW BLANKSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

One of the largest methamphetamine labs found in Southern California has been shut down, but its alleged operator remains at large, authorities said Monday.

Eleazar Garcia, 51, of Littlerock is suspected of running a lab that produced 126 pounds of methamphetamine with a street value of $5 million at a Lancaster ranch, said Deputy Dan Burdick, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

"This was just a huge amount of [finished] product to be sitting around," Burdick said. "Usually when we find a lab, there's a moderate quantity, but not more than 100 pounds."

Deputies descended on the remote ranch in the 24200 block of East Avenue K on Dec. 30 after neighbors complained of a foul smell emanating from the property, Burdick said. Garcia wasn't there, and no other suspects are being sought.

Officials also removed a large amount of chemicals, authorities said.

Garcia is 5-foot-4, weighs 135 pounds and has a mustache. He previously has been arrested on charges of receiving stolen property and illegal possession of a firearm and should be considered armed and dangerous, Burdick said.

The amount of methamphetamine found was almost three times that seized last summer in the Antelope Valley by a federal and state drug task force. Authorities said those raids broke up a ring linked to white supremacist groups and Mexican drug suppliers.

Dubbed "Silent Thunder," the operation led to 293 arrests, the seizure of $500,000 in cash and yielded more than 45 pounds of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of $2 million, officials said.

Authorities said the Antelope Valley is not the most active methamphetamine production and distribution center in the region, nor has it yielded the largest seizures in Southern California.

Riverside and San Bernardino counties are considered by state and federal authorities as the nation's "methamphetamine capital" in numbers of operations.

Jose Martinez, a spokesman for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, said agents have found higher quantities of finished product in Riverside County, but he could not be specific. Methamphetamine production and usage exploded in the last decade as a more potent, easier-to-produce version made with ephedrine became popular.

Anyone with information about Garcia is asked to call the Sheriff's Department's Lancaster Station at (661) 948-8466.

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