It’s a groundbreaking bust that is truly just beginning.
“We still have an ongoing investigation- we have identified over 200 suspects who are involved in these cases,” says St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Catherine Payne.
The Sheriff’s Office and the DEA have announced 43 arrest warrants relating to a wide reaching meth bust in St. Johns County. 32 of those suspects are now in custody and the search continues for 11 more.
Payne says this 1 ½ year long investigation has netted many more potential suspects in what she calls a multi-faceted investigation that includes three suspected meth labs. They continue to piece together information about the more than 200 people under investigation to determine whether they should face charges as well.
Aside from the large scale, the most unique part of this investigation was the proactive approach.
“To actually go out and look at the logs, and look at the names, and try to connect the dots, and interview witnesses, and other evidence… to come up with a conspiracy charge- that’s completely new a groundbreaking,” she says.
This was the first time St. Johns County has taken this specific approach to an investigation. Deputies used pharmaceutical logs to identify suspects who were buying a large amount of a key ingredient in making meth, Pseudoephedrine. Payne says this has only been done retroactively for their investigations until this time.
But ultimately, the Sheriff’s Office and DEA decided to take a stand against what they see as a growing problem.
“They’re all conspiring to produce a drug that is absolutely plaguing our society,” she says.
Those arrested could play any number of pieces in this puzzle, from buying ingredients to manufacturing. The Sheriff’s Office says they’re all facing conspiracy to produce and/or conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.