National trend toward meth problems not seen in Collier, Lee

Mexican cartels, which supply 80 percent of the methamphetamine sold on American streets, smuggle the illegal drug across the U.S. border in a variety of liquids from windshield wiper fluid to soap before being refined in major hubs like Atlanta then shipped to smaller cities. (SHNS photo courtesy Drug Enforcement Administration)

Mexican cartels, which supply 80 percent of the methamphetamine sold on American streets, smuggle the illegal drug across the U.S. border in a variety of liquids from windshield wiper fluid to soap before being refined in major hubs like Atlanta then shipped to smaller cities. (SHNS photo courtesy Drug Enforcement Administration)

Guadalupe Soto

Guadalupe Soto

Genaro Soto

Genaro Soto

Methamphetamine production in the U.S. was primarily done in labs. But now it's being done just about anywhere.

See Slideshow

Meth-contamination disclosure laws by state. Scripps Howard News Service examined state laws across the country.

See Interactive Map

Interview with Jeffrey Scott

DEA agent talks about meth problems.

This is one of a several Scripps Howard News Service and Daily News reports on methamphetamine problems in the nation. Pick up a copy of Sunday's Daily News and return to naplesnews.com Sunday and Monday.

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— It's been seven years since Collier County has seen a large methamphetamine bust that sent two Immokalee brothers to prison, one for 15 years.

The 2005 arrests of Guadalupe and Genaro Soto were a rarity.

Collier County sheriff's detectives seized enough meth from the Sotos to supply customers with more than 1,000 doses of the powerful addictive drug. Over 10 months, detectives seized $60,000 worth, 27 ounces of meth, which also is known on the street as crystal, crank and ice.

Although meth is a problem nationally, local law enforcement officers, health and rehab professionals and child protection advocates say it never gained popularity in Collier and Lee counties.

"We've seen very little of it because locally, it's very controlled," Lt. Harold J. Minch of the Collier County sheriff's Vice and Narcotics Bureau, said of stores monitoring purchases of the main ingredients. "To make any quantity of it, it's pretty time-consuming.

"It's been very sporadic here. It's not that it doesn't exist, but it hasn't been a scourge and we haven't seen the large problems associated with it," Minch added. "There are people manufacturing it in great quantities in Mexico and they're shipping it here. A lot of it has been Internet-based or traveler-based."

Meth arrests have been infrequent, meth houses rarer. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration records list none in Collier or Lee.

"A few instances of 'shake & bake' bottles recovered and a handful of possession arrests for meth," said Lt. Larry King, a Lee County sheriff's spokesman, of the experience in Lee.

The labs not only are fire and explosion hazards, but they harm the environment. Contaminated homes haven't been a problem here, but traveling manufacturers often use hotels to bake meth.

Still, there have been no reports of hotels or motels hit here, according to Deb Millsap, director of the Collier County Health Department.

But hotels in Tallahassee, Jacksonville and St. Augustine have experienced traveling drug manufacturers, sometimes ending in condemned rooms or evacuations.

As a result, state lawmakers are being pressed to protect Florida residents and tourists. Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and his son, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, have asked the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation to implement emergency rules governing disclosure and cleanup at hotels and motels.

In Florida, it's buyer beware. The state doesn't have cleanup and remediation regulations, although two counties, Duval and Hillsborough, enacted laws. The federal Environmental Protection Agency only has voluntary standards.

Florida also isn't among the 23 states with meth-disclosure laws involving a home purchase and isn't included among a dozen states that require disclosure by landlords.

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