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Feds: Meth scheme makes for odd pairing

Feds: Meth scheme makes for odd pairing

February 18th, 2012 in News

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Authorities allege that the quest to make methamphetamine has led to an unlikely alliance between a white supremacist and a black inner-city gang member.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ( reports that Aryan Nations member Richard Treis and Robert "Biz" Swinney are among seven people facing federal charges for conspiracy to make meth, distribution of meth and other drug-related crimes.

An attorney for Treis declined comment. Swinney's attorney did not return a message seeking comment.

Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration say Treis joined the Aryan Nations while in a federal prison for previous meth-related crimes. They say Swinney is a documented gang member.

Treis, 38, met an associate of Swinney, 22, at a St. Louis halfway house.

"It was all about the money," said Cpl. Scott Briggs of the sheriff's department in Franklin County, where some of the defendants are from. "They put away their differences to get the job done."

Police say Swinney mobilized at least 150 people over two years to sidestep purchase restrictions on decongestants containing pseudoephedrine, a key meth ingredient, and provide the pills to meth cooks like Treis.

Undercover officers witnessed Swinney and his associates buying 200 boxes of pseudoephedrine at four Walgreens stores in October and November, said Sgt. Jason Grellner of the Franklin County department.

Briggs said Swinney recruited gang members, the homeless, his own relatives and random others to pill shop.

"Just about every day, they were standing outside of stores handing out $20 bills asking people to buy a $10 box and keep the change," Briggs said. Then, Swinney allegedly sold the $10 boxes to Treis and others for $50 to $80 per box. Swinney allegedly told police that he lived off of the money for the last two years.

Briggs said Swinney told investigators he was among many city residents forging partnerships with rural Missouri meth cooks.

Tim Whitney, commander of Jefferson County's narcotics unit, said such unusual partnerships are becoming more common among meth makers, saying that "these are certainly groups of people that you typically wouldn't find in the same room hanging out together."

Missouri was the leading state for meth lab seizures for several years before being passed last year by Tennessee. Federal law limits the number of pills containing pseudoephedrine that can be purchased, but meth makers are increasingly using pill shoppers to get around the requirement.

Gov. Jay Nixon is among those supporting a push to require a prescription for pseudoephedrine, but so far, lawmakers have balked. Opponents and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, speaking for pharmaceutical companies, say the prescription law would be unfair to law-abiding residents.

Federal law permits purchase of 9 grams of pseudoephedrine in a 30-day period and 108 grams a year. A pending bill would drop those to 7.5 and 75 grams, respectively.