Westmoreland couple charged with cooking meth in Bell Township home
A Bell Township couple under surveillance for two years by agents from the state Attorney General's Office were arraigned on Tuesday on charges of operating a methamphetamine operation in their home in the village of Salina.
Robert W. Cass, 49, and Lisa A. Kirchartz, 50, of 613 Kier St., were charged with operating a methamphetamine laboratory, violation of the state controlled substance act, possession of a controlled substance, criminal conspiracy and risking a catastrophe.
They also were charged with endangering the welfare of a child because they sometimes cared for their grandson while they were manufacturing the drug, according to Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
Methamphetamine, a powder that stimulates the central nervous system, is highly addictive. The production of meth by “cooking” can be dangerous because it involves poisonous, flammable and explosive chemicals.
According to the affidavit of probable cause filed by agent Douglas Brink, Cass and Kirchartz came under investigation when agents learned in 2013 they had been purchasing large quantities of chemicals including pseudoephedrine, a compound contained in cold and allergy medications that is used in the meth manufacturing process.
“A pharmacy check of numerous pharmacies in the tri-county area ... revealed that both Cass and Kirchartz purchased products that contained pseudoephedrine on over 94 occasions between January 2012 and July 2013,” Brink wrote.
When agents conducted a search, they saw a fire pit behind the couple's mobile home containing “a burnt one-gallon square container and multiple burnt aerosol containers, all known (by Brink) to be commonly used in the production of methamphetamine,” he wrote.
“Agents also observed in the front passenger seat of a vehicle known in the past to be operated by Cass, multiple aerosol cans of brake cleaner and an open match box case with several matchbooks missing,” Brink wrote.
During the search, Kirchartz turned over a “small plastic container containing methamphetamine.”
“Kirchartz stated that it was methamphetamine and that Cass cooks the methamphetamine somewhere out back of the residence,” Brink wrote.
During the search, agents discovered a crib in the residence that was used when the couple care for their “toddler grandson.”
Meth production poses serious safety and environmental concerns, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center. The process creates toxic waste that endangers law enforcement officers, emergency response teams and the environment.
Illegal manufacturers typically dump waste in the local area, contaminating ground water and killing vegetation, according to the agency. Cleanup and remediation of laboratory sites, mandated by federal law, can run into the tens of thousands of dollars per location.
Washington Township District Judge Jason Buczak ordered Cass and Kirchartz held in the county prison on $100,000 bond each pending preliminary hearings on Monday.
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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