It's Amateur Hour for Meth Makers

Wonder what your neighbors are cooking up? It could be something extremely dangerous.

It’s amateur hour in the methamphetamine business with police seeing a dangerous trend as more mom-and-pop-type drug labs spring up in the Lehigh Valley.

One meth maker was busted - in a home she shared with her two young girls.

A local

And filled a room with chemical-smelling smoke at a family-friendly hotel in a busy shopping area. The alleged perpetrator was charged with risking a catastrophe, among other crimes. 

Two detectives who lead drug task forces for Lehigh and Northampton counties agree that more dealers are making their own meth. They differ on whether there's an upswing in methamphetamine trafficking.

“There’s a lot more labs but they’re smaller labs because the information is out there on how to make it at home,” said Joe Stauffer, Lehigh County’s chief detective of homicides and drug task force.

Wannabe dealers turn to the Internet for instructions on making meth, but that doesn’t make them experts, said Det. Andre Stevens, who’s in charge of the Northampton County Drug Task Force.

“More unskilled persons are trying to make meth than before, which is a big danger,” Stevens said. “Meth is made with very flammable and toxic substances so it is very dangerous for people to try to make that.”

Stauffer said he doesn’t think there’s been a significant increase recently in meth trafficking in Lehigh County. But in Northampton County, meth cases seem to have picked up, Stevens said.

Recent meth cases include these:

  • Todd Laudenbach was arrested in April for allegedly operating a methamphetamine lab in the Hampton Inn on Easton-Nazareth Highway (Route 248) in Lower Nazareth Township. Laudenbach of Bushkill Township . He and Denene Noel of Saylorsburg were charged with possession and manufacturing of methamphetamine, as well as risking a catastrophe.
  • Carl V. Deutsch and Kimberly Landis Fizer were arrested April 8 on charges of , according to the criminal complaint. Police found chemicals, including red phosphorous, iodine and pseudoephedrine, which are ingredients for making meth.
  • A Southern Lehigh teacher, Garrett Dudeck, was charged by federal authorites in March with from his home in Bethlehem. He is under house arrest while awaiting trial. 
  • Two Upper Nazareth men, James Schaffer, 49, and Timothy Getz, 27, were arrested for in Easton, Nazareth and Phillipsburg in March.
  • In April, Rebecca L. Andrews out of her home on S. Gilmore Street, near Salisbury High School, and was sentenced to six to 23 months in Lehigh County Prison. Her boyfriend, David Russell Faust, had already been sentenced for running a meth lab in their home.

Typical signs of a meth lab at a home or business are "increased traffic. You’re going to have a lot of people stopping by for a very short time," said Stauffer. 

Meth is highly addictive and the effects on addicts are devastating, Stauffer said. It ages people quickly, damaging their teeth and gums. Users lose weight and some feel like they have bugs under their skin, he said.

Faces of Meth is a project featuring before-and-after photos showing the grisly physical decay of young women and men hooked on meth.

“You’re going to have paranoia, decreased appetite, anxiety, weight loss, strong body odors,” Stevens said.

One of the ingredients in meth is pseudoephedrine, which can be found in some Sudafed cold and allergy products.

In an effort to curb meth production, Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2006, which requires those Sudafed products to be sold behind the pharmacy counter. Customers have to present photo identification to buy them.

Arrests for meth are still relatively few compared to those connected to more popular drugs like cocaine.

Fifteen adults and four juveniles were arrested in Lehigh County for
possession of a synthetic drug, which is mainly meth and the drug called ecstasy, in 2010, according to Pennsylvania's Uniform Crime Reporting System.

That same year, another nine adults and one juvenile were charged with selling synthetic drugs.

In Northampton County in 2010, police charged seven adults with selling synthetic drugs; no juveniles were charged. That year, 17 adults and one juvenile were charged with possession.


Mary Anne Looby July 05, 2011 at 03:02 PM
All the more reason to crack down on everyone. Even the users. I don't know if these Moms and Dads are from normal middle class homes, but any parent who gives two hoots about their family would thing twice if they knew they were going to jail, do not pass go do not collect $200! I've heard that cocaine is a great way to loose weight, but you don't see overweight moms and dads turning to it to get thin. I am tired of everyone making excuses for those who get ivolved with drugs, with the exception of kids. Kids are stupid at times, they follow, they want to fit in. Adults just want the satisfaction that they get from using, the high, the low what ever it is that they get from using. We have become a society of enablers by making excuses for everything that is wrong in todays society. It is time to call a spade a spade.
Cynthia Gibson July 06, 2011 at 03:19 PM
The 2006 act signed by Congress is obviously not working to prevent this drug problem. Perhaps this should be changed, so that honest citizens with allergies can purchase the medicine without signing a form, showing photo ID, and feeling like a criminal!
J. Drew Stefancin July 06, 2011 at 08:53 PM
I think the real question here is when does the next bus leave for Independence, Kansas?
Elizabeth Rich July 07, 2011 at 12:13 AM
Well, since you asked... http://www.greyhound.com/ticketcenter/en/Step3.asp Have a safe trip! ((P.S. It's Independence, Missouri. Independence, KS is waaaaaay to cool for such a moniker!))
J. Drew Stefancin July 07, 2011 at 12:25 PM
Oh, gosh ,you're right. The worst thing that can happen when making a joke is fouling up the punchline.


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