Eight arrested in methlab sting

CLINTON, NC Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton says the individuals were key members of a group pushing the methamphetamine that has ravaged his county.

The Sampson County Sheriff's Office, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the SBI conducted the investigation, which was dubbed, "Juiced Out."

Those arrested were Jackie Hobbs, Adam Strickland, Sabrina Royal, Corey Reed Harmon, Steve McClenny, William Paschall, Samuel Faircloth and Ramon Singleton.

All are charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. Five of them also face gun charges.

All eight are from rural Sampson County and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute more then five grams of a substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine. Five of them also pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm during a drug crime. All are awaiting sentencing. Depending on their prior records, they could face up to, and including, life in prison.

Sampson County handled 12 meth lab busts in all of 2007, Thornton said. That number was already matched by Feb. 21 of this year.

"It became apparent to me that the methamphetamine problem in the county was getting out of hand," Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton said.

Some people were found through unusual buying patterns for meth supplies, such as ammonia and pseudoephedrines in over-the-counter sinus medications. Tips on the meth labs led authorities to the others.

The arrests come as several eastern North Carolina counties work to figure out how to curb the growing methamphetamine market.

Investigators also have been going after the people buying pseudoephedrines from pharmacies in Wayne, Sampson and Johnston counties. Operation Pop-A-Smurf, as they call it, has not only netted arrests of pill buyers, but also meth cookers and others who produce or buy the drug, Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders said recently.

Federal authorities are helping by pressing charges that come with harsher penalties, including no parole.

"That's the hammer federal prosecutors are able to bring to the table,"U.S. Attorney George Holding said.

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