PHOENIX -- Police busted an unusual methamphetamine operation in a West Valley neighborhood Thursday, netting $100,000 worth of the drug and two arrests.
Phoenix police were conducting a routine traffic stop in the area of 75th Avenue and Indian School Road around 11:30 a.m. when they investigated the incident further and discovered a large-scale "wash lab."
Police say crystal meth is not made at a wash lab; it is taken there to be converted into a different kind of meth with a higher street value.
Police say cartels smuggle crystal meth across the Arizona-Mexico border and into seemingly normal neighborhoods where "washers" dissolve the drug into household chemicals like acetone. The mixture then evaporates and forms "ice" or "glass," a more pure form of meth.
Angel Miguel Angulo-Garcia, 35, and Manuel Gerardo Tavizon-Dominguez, 28, were arrested in connection with the wash lab.
The Maricopa County Drug Suppression Task Force responded to the home on the 7500 block of West Montecito Avenue to investigate the lab. The task force consists of detectives and supervisors from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office; U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; and Phoenix, Tempe and Buckeye police departments.
Police seized about 24 pounds of meth from the home and say the wash lab was turning out at least that amount of the drug every week.
Two rooms appeared to be completely dedicated to the washing process.
Police also seized about 2 pounds of heroin, 2 grams of cocaine, 5 grams of marijuana, $5,500 in cash, a .45 caliber handgun, and three vehicles.
Wash labs are as dangerous and explosive as meth labs but are much harder to detect, police say.
Phoenix police Sgt. Don Sherrard said meth labs usually leave a trail of supplies needed to make the drug, such as pseudoephedrine, a decongestant.
"In this case, they've already got the finished meth," he said. "All they've got to do is get a 5-gallon can of acetone or alcohol, which is easy to do at a home improvement store without drawing a whole bunch of attention."
While neighbors did notice some unusual traffic in the area, police say the best way to detect a wash lab is by the smell of acetone.
"There are a lot more out there than we're aware of or that we're busting, but we're doing everything we can to follow up on the leads and get them shut down," Sherrard said.
The two men were booked into Maricopa County Jail on charges of possession of dangerous drugs for sale, possession of narcotic drugs for sale, and possession of chemicals and equipment to manufacture dangerous drugs.