A federal grand jury in St. Louis indicted 68 people in what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch calls the dismantling of eight methamphetamine conspiracies that were responsible for dozens of meth labs scattered around the St. Louis area. U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway said the busts cut off the supply of meth ingredient pseudoephedrine – found in the 141,000 cold pills the defendants allegedly purchased – and led to a corresponding drop to 30 this year from the roughly 50 meth labs busted by police by this date last year.
Investigators say the case illustrates an emerging tool in the battle against meth: the use of store records to find meth cooks and shoppers who stockpile cold pills containing pseudoephedrine. Investigators were able to go after the cooks and shoppers using a federal law that took effect in 2006. That law makes it a crime to buy more than 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine in a day or nine grams in a month. Nine grams works out to about 144 pills. Some of those in the local cases were buying more than 144 pills in a single day, Hanaway said. “No one has the sniffles so bad they need 144 pills a day.” Hanaway said the law contains “very, very strong” penalties for violators – up to 20 years in prison, depending on the number of pills involved and other factors, although defendants will likely see much less time. She said the federal law makes prosecution possible without actually catching someone with meth or catching a meth cook with meth residue.