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Posh Home Site of Big Meth Bust

Woman, 22, occupying her parents' Laguna Niguel house, is arrested along with three friends in what's termed a high-volume manufacturing operation.

September 11, 2003|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

Left alone in an expensive Laguna Niguel home with her parents undergoing a divorce, the 22-year-old daughter of a construction executive built an elaborate methamphetamine laboratory that spread throughout the house, authorities said Wednesday.

Orange County sheriff's deputies raided the 5,000-square-foot home late Tuesday and arrested Adriean Volz and three male friends -- Kevin Lattienville, 23, of San Gabriel and parolees Damien Smith, 27, and Thomas Leo Zon, 34, of Azusa -- on suspicion of manufacturing a controlled substance.

Deputies found 50 pounds of methamphetamine in tablet and liquid form packaged, sorted and "ready to be sold in the streets," said sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino. The drugs were valued at more than $1 million.

Authorities discovered the operation when a deputy on routine patrol in the neighborhood about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday spotted Lattienville standing in front of the home, in the 22800 block of Channel View. While the deputy questioned Lattienville, Smith walked out of the home and was immediately recognized by the deputy as a parolee sought for failing to report to his probation officer. Smith ran away but was later arrested without incident.

Deputies searched the home and found drug paraphernalia and methamphetamine "in virtually every single room in the house," Amormino said.

Methamphetamine production is a complex and dangerous operation that exposes people to toxic chemicals.

Elaborate precautions are needed to safely dismantle such labs.

Amormino said investigators aren't sure how long the lab had been operating at the home, a white, two-story Mediterranean house with arched windows, palms trees and a red tile roof.

The home belongs to Volz's mother, Gina Peterson, a homemaker, and her stepfather, George Peterson, president of an Irvine construction and development company that oversees the Dana Point Harbor renovations.

With their divorce in progress, the couple live in separate homes and had left the Laguna Niguel house in their daughter's hands, investigators said. Authorities said they do not believe the parents, who share custody of four younger children, are involved in the drug operation. Neither parent could be reached for comment.

Neighbors were startled by the raid. "I live right next door, and I'm just shocked that I didn't smell anything," said Debra Marcus.

The home was built 12 years ago atop the hills of Monarch Point, a guarded and gated community of custom-built homes that overlook the Pacific and the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Marie Tygh, who describes herself as Gina Peterson's best friend, said Peterson has not lived at the home for some time.

"It was just a house full of children, full of pets and full of love," said Tygh, of Laguna Beach, who was visiting another friend in the neighborhood when she noticed police at the Peterson home. "There's no way she knew ... she's very responsible, religious, and she's a great mother."

On Wednesday, investigators wearing protective gear opened up windows to air out the home of its flammable and toxic fumes, and evacuated two nearby homes until the odor dissipates.

"It shows that methamphetamine is not only manufactured in inner-city neighborhoods," Amormino said. "And it goes to show that you never know what goes on next door."

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