McCain’s Election Official found with Meth
A woman listed as the RSVP contact for U.S. Sen. John McCain’s re-election fundraisers was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of drug charges after Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies found an active meth lab and other illicit drugs while conducting a search warrant at her north-central Phoenix home, officials said.
The Sheriff’s Office identified one of two people arrested in the drug bust as 34-year-old Emily Pitha, a former member of the staff of retired U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who most recently worked on GOP campaign fundraising.
McCain’s campaign manager, Ryan O’Daniel, issued this response Tuesday night:
“We commend the hard work and dedication of our law enforcement officers in their fight to keep our community safe from illegal drugs and associated criminal activity. The campaign immediately terminated any relationship with Ms. Pitha upon learning of her alleged involvement in the operation.”
A Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said authorities were first alerted to possible drug activity at Pitha’s Phoenix home by a parcel in transit from the Netherlands containing over 250 grams of MDMA – raw ecstasy. Detective Doug Matteson, the MCSO spokesman, said Pitha’s boyfriend, 36-year-old Christopher Hustrulid, signed for the packaged when it arrived at their doorstep Tuesday afternoon.
Detectives executing a search warrant at the home discovered an active meth lab, along with unspecified quantities of LSD, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, about $7,000 in loose currency, and counterfeit money, according to Matteson. A separate building on the property was found to have a hidden room that was to be used as a marijuana-grow facility, he said.
Pitha and Hustrulid were arrested and expected to face numerous drug violations, in addition to possible child-endangerment charges.
Matteson said two children living inside the home — ages 5 and 10 — “had easy access to all of (the) drugs and materials, even the bomb-making materials that were located in the back with the meth lab.”
Deputies evacuated occupants of nearby homes Tuesday evening while the sheriff’s bomb squad disposed of the volatile materials used in the meth-making process, Matteson said.
No injuries were reported.
With the medical marijuana law cutting profits for street dealers, police believe that drug-trafficking organizations are turning to far more dangerous drugs, flooding the streets with cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
Tempe Police, the DEA and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office attacked that trend in Operation Terminus, a 30-month investigation that resulted in the dismantling of what investigators described as an extensive drug trafficking network that stretched from Sinoloa, Mexico, to Phoenix, Los Angeles and Indianapolis.
Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff pointed out that the one missing item in this case is marijuana.
During the investigation, there were 77 indictments, with authorities seizing $7.5 million cash, 485 pounds of methamphetamine, 50 Kilograms of cocaine, 4.5 pounds of heroin and 37 firearms.
“Here, in Arizona alone, you can go to a strip mall and purchase marijuana,” Ryff said. “Drug cartels are sophisticated, they are a criminal enterprise. If the money is not there, they are going to change their tactics.”
Ryff praised the Cronkite School at ASU for their work in evaluating the impact of drugs in Arizona as seen in their recent semester long project: Hooked, Tracking Heroin’s hold on Arizona.
“They are plowing marijuana fields and planting opiates. It’s killing our youths. It’s an epidemic,” said Lt. Mike Pooley, a Tempe police spokesman.
Police believe that drug addiction is the root cause of many property crimes, including burglary and shoplifting. Mesa police arrested a suspect last week who told them he used an air gun resembling a pistol to rob a bank in order to pay his heroin dealer.
Operation Terminus started in 2012 with the arrest of an individual named Jesus who was picked up from a different criminal investigation,Tempe police Commander Kim Hale said.
The drug-trafficking organizations are based in the Sinoloa state in Mexico, but the drugs are distributed by local syndicates throughout the Valley and as far away as Los Angeles and Indianapolis, he said.
“Arizona is ground zero for for drugs and our border states have been impacted just as is the borders in California, Texas and News Mexico,” Hale said.
Tempe police released a list of 70 defendants who were charged with a variety of drug trafficking crimes as the result of Operation Terminus.
An investigation into the theft of a bag of hand sanitizer led to a methamphetamine bust at Mesa Community College’s Red Mountain campus, according to court records.
David Joseph Auer, 43, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of several drug related counts, including possession of a dangerous drug, records show.
Police reportedly found methamphetamine inside Auer’s car after Red Mountain campus security witnessed him remove a large bag of hand sanitizer from a dispenser and put it in his backpack, according to East Mesa Justice Court records.
Auer was seen entering the campus, 2305 N. Power Road, on video surveillance by security guards shortly before 8 a.m. After the alleged theft, Auer went to a green Buick parked inside the campus’s parking lot where he placed the backpack on the passenger seat, records stated.
According to records, Auer was standing next to the vehicle when he was stopped by police and campus security, who identified him based on the surveillance tape.
When police asked him about the hand sanitizer, he denied knowing anything about it and agreed to let them search his vehicle and backpack, records showed.
Police reportedly found two plastic bags of methamphetamine hidden in a pair of boots inside the vehicle, according to court records. Approximately 1.2 liters of Purell Hand Sanitizer was recovered from the backpack, along with a glass pipe believed to be used for smoking methamphetamine, police said.
The hand sanitizer, estimated to be worth $20, was returned to Red Mountain campus security guards, who indicated the college wanted to prosecute Auer for the theft.
Auer told police he is a transient that lives out of his car and stole the hand sanitizer so he would have something to clean himself with later, records show.
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