Three Accused in Local Meth Bust

Steve Arnold (left), Michael Wood (center) and Meegen Smith (right) face meth charges. (Courtesy/Addison County Independent)

Steve Arnold (left), Michael Wood (center) and Meegen Smith (right) face meth charges. (Courtesy/Addison County Independent)

By Isaac Baker

On Wednesday, Nov. 21 two residents of Hancock, Vt., Steven Arnold and Michael Wood, appeared in court to respond to the allegations of manufacturing and distributing methamphetamines out of their home on Route 125. This is the first major meth case to be prosecuted in Addison County.

Meegen Smith, another Hancock resident who lived down the street from Hancock and Wood, was simultaneously charged on Wednesday for teaching Arnold and Wood how to cook meth along with two other charges: violating probation and fleeing New York state after being charged with possession of meth ingredients like Sudafed, Drano and lithium ion batteries.

Arnold and Wood were each charged with two counts of distributing methamphetamine and one count of conspiracy in the sale of the drug. In sum, these charges could amount to 15 years in prison, accompanied with a fine of up to $300,000.

All three suspects pleaded innocent to their charges.

The Southern Vermont Drug Task Force was responsible for the arrests, having received a tip from an informant who was seeking to lessen his sentence in a separate case.  Detective Jeffrey Stephenson, a member of the task force, led the investigation and helped organize the two meth buys made by the informant that formed the evidentiary basis for the court case.

A few days prior to the purchases, the informant tipped the police about Wood and Arnold’s operation on Route 125. The informant had heard that the lab had originally been located in the woods until it exploded and the alleged cooks moved indoors.

On Nov. 14, police outfitted the informant with a wiretap and gave him cash to make a purchase at the Route 125 home. The informant made his way to the house and successfully bought $80 worth of meth, while gathering some incriminating evidence over the wiretap.

Authorities also had received word from a second informant who claimed to have been driven to a pharmacy by Wood and asked to purchase Sudafed, lithium batteries and Drano.

On Nov. 19, police arranged for a second buy at the Route 125 home with the first informant, seeking further criminal evidence. During this purchase, Arnold spoke at length about the history of his meth manufacturing with Wood, and Smith before that.

“Arnold spoke about his first time manufacturing meth on his own and how he got a rush as the bottle began to swell up and he thought it would explode,” the affidavit stated.

Arnold also acknowledged that he was aware of the criminality of his actions, according to court records.

“[Arnold] stated that just having lithium batteries, Drano and Sudafed is enough to convict you,” he was heard saying.

Because of concern about meth manufacturing, Vermont state law prohibits the purchase of more than three packs of Sudafed by an individual in a month. As Wood is the owner of the home where meth was allegedly being produced, he chose not to buy Sudafed directly so as to avoid suspicion, according to the affidavit.

On Nov. 20, police went out with a search warrant to Wood’s home where they arrested Wood and Arnold and claim to have heard the duo confess to the manufacturing and use of meth.

In relation to the arrests, state police say that Smith will be charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine in addition to her outstanding criminal actions. Smith allegedly admitted to being a meth user but stated to the authorities that she had never cooked meth in the state of Vermont.

Judge Toor presided over the case and set bail for each of the accused. Wood’s bail was set at $75,000, a significant cost that was meant to reflect his previous violation of the conditions of his release from prison. Toor set the bail for Arnold at $25,000 and ruled that Smith was to be held without bail due to her violation of her probation charge.

The three will be held in prison until the court date when a jury of their peers will hear the case. In the event that one of them makes bail, Toor stated that he or she would be required to participate in a substance abuse treatment program.