By David Howell
ENID – An Enid couple face multiple drug charges after a real-time pseudoephedrine tracking system alerted the Yalobusha County Sheriff’s Department that they had allegedly purchased pills in Memphis last Wednesday.
Timothy D. Keel, 41, and Cherlyn K. Smith, 51, were each charged with possession of pseudoephedrine, a misdemeanor, and possession of methamphetamine, a felony, according to Yalobusha County Sheriff Lance Humphreys.
“We have been watching these two for almost four months,” Humphreys said about the investigation, which was prompted by MethCheck, the tracking system which provides automated tools that give law enforcement the ability to monitor suspicious buying patterns and to “watch” specific individuals who exceed the legal limits imposed by state law.
Simply put, Smith and Keel each allegedly purchased a box of pseudoephedrine at two different locations in Memphis. Each time they had to show identification and were logged into pharmacy logs. Each time, Humphreys, who had placed an alert for the two names with MethCheck, was sent a text to his cell phone notifying him of the purchase.
In Tennessee, pseudoephedrine is sold over-the-counter as a cold and allergy medicine. In Miss-issippi, after a law change last year, pseudoephedrine is classified as a prescription drug because it is the main ingredient used to illegally produce methamphetamine.
“When they brought the pseudoephedrine back across state lines, they were committing a crime,” Humphreys explained. “With the new law, they must have a prescription and it must be contained in a pill bottle.”
After receiving the two texts, Humphreys and deputies set up and waited for the couple to return to Yalobusha County.
“We had a deputy get behind them as soon as they hit the county line, we were waiting for them,” Yalobusha Sheriff Lance Humphrey reported. Smith and Keel exited I-55 at Enid Lake, and traveled down County Road 36 headed to their house, located on County Road 35 just south of the Enid Dam levy.
A tossed cigarette gave the deputy authority to initiate a traffic stop for littering.
“We asked them, where are the pills you just purchased,” Humphreys said. “They had them right there in the car, it was obvious.”
They were each charged with possession of the pseudoephedrine, a misdemeanor unless you have more than 100 dosage units.
“They gave us consent to search their house, that is where we seized a gram of apparent meth,” Humphreys added.
Heavier felony charges, possession of methamphetamine, were added to the traffic violations and other possession charge.
“We have been getting hits from MethCheck on these two for several months. Every time we set up and wait, they did not return home after purchasing the pills,” Humphreys added. “This time, everything worked.”
“I am not trying to hide this resource. If it stops meth users from buying it, it is working and doing what it is supposed to do,” Humphreys said about MethCheck. “You can keep arresting them, but deterrence would be better. It would save taxpayers money.”
Case in point: Just two years ago, deputies raided same house after receiving a tip about possible meth use. Smith and two other people were charged with possession of methamphetamine.
She was convicted and was on probation when deputies made the latest arrest.
Mississippi Sets Standard For Combating Meth Labs
The head of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics says the state’s eight-month old law banning over-the-counter sales of cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine, the main ingredient used to illegally produce methamphetamine, continues to be effective.
MBN Director Marshall Fisher reports:
• “MBN figures show a nearly 70 percent reduction in meth-related cases statewide. Officers seized 203 meth labs from July 2010 to February 2011, a 67 percent reduction from the 607 meth labs seized from July 2009 to February 2010.
“Twenty-four children were removed from meth lab sites from July 2010 to February 2011, which is an 83 percent reduction from the 141 children removed from meth lab sites from July 2009 to February 2010.
• “When the MBN en-counters pseudoephedrine in connection with a meth lab now, it has been purchased in a bordering state. Suspects are crossing state lines to purchase pseudoephedrine, bringing it back to meth cooks in Mississippi and trading it for meth or selling the pills for $50 to $100 per box.
“Some organized groups or “crews” are recruited strictly to buy pseudoephedrine pills. This criminal enterprise, known as “smurfing,” actually has been enhanced as an unintended consequence of electronic monitoring and laws limiting sales of cold and allergy medicine containing pseudoephedrine.
Authorities in states like Kentucky report that electronic tracking simply is not working.
“In recent months, MBN conducted meth operations with authorities in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee that led to 36 meth-related arrests and four meth lab seizures, as well as the rescue of three drug-endangered children.
• “Following Mississippi’s example, 10 states – Arkansas, California, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tenne-ssee, Virginia and West Virginia – have filed bills to restrict the availability of pseudoephedrine. And six others – Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Missouri and Washington – have similar bills pending.
• “It is obvious that Mississippi’s success has led other states to seriously consider prescription-only pseudoephedrine legislation. The folks that fought it here have gone to other states and implied that Mississippi’s success is due to reduced meth enforcement. That is false information designed to hide the truth: Prescription-only legislation works. While these misleading tactics work, children continue to suffer and die.
• “Meanwhile, federal funds administered by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in past years have helped to defray costs to state and local agencies for meth-lab cleanup, which involves the handling and disposal of hazardous materials. Funding has been halted due to federal budgetary constraints, and the Obama administration’s proposed budget does not include a request for continued funding.
“The cost to clean up a small lab is $2,000 to $5,000 just for hazardous material removal. For a large lab, the cost can be as much as $25,000. Fortunately, be-cause of the positive results Mississippi has enjoyed pursuant to passage of House Bill 512 the costs to our state and our taxpayers will be much smaller.”