When they charged 49 convenience store clerks and owners in rural Georgia with selling methamphetamine ingredients, federal prosecutors said that hidden microphones and cameras had caught the workers acknowledging that the products would be used to make the drug, says the New York Times. The defense says much of it may be a cultural misunderstanding. Forty-four of the defendants are Indian immigrants – 32, mostly unrelated, are named Patel. When a government informant told clerks that he needed the cold medicine, matches, and camping fuel to “finish up a cook,” some of them believed he meant something about barbecue.
The case of Operation Meth Merchant illustrates the language barrier between an immigrant store clerk and the informants who used drug slang or quick asides to convey that they were planning to make methamphetamine. “They’re not really paying attention to what they’re being told,” said Steve Sadow, a defense lawyer. “Their business is: I ring it up, you leave, I’ve done my job. Call it language or idiom or culture, I’m not sure you’re able to show they know there’s anything wrong with what they’re doing.”