LANCASTER, Calif. — Nearly 300 people were arrested during an 18-month methamphetamine sting, including some locally prominent businessmen.
"Some of the folks picked up were substantial citizens, in the eyes of some people," Lancaster Mayor Frank Roberts said. "They were not the kind of folks who were supposed to be handling methamphetamine."
The suspects are connected to a loose organization of methamphetamine manufacturers, most of them in the Antelope Valley, according to allegations filed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Los Angeles County deputies.
Authorities say the ring has ties to white supremacist and biker groups, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
The sting, dubbed "Operation Silent Thunder," concluded last week after 293 arrests and the seizure of more than $2 million worth of methamphetamine. Of those arrested, 233 have criminal records and 72 are members of white supremacist groups, authorities said.
Investigators believe one of the businessmen, Robert Williams, a paint shop owner known for his work customizing Harley-Davidsons, joined the Chamber of Commerce to keep tabs on local initiatives that could interfere with the methamphetamine business.
Authorities also arrested Lance Pompey, owner of Quartz Hill Glass and Mirror, and Dale Combs, owner of Dale’s Precision Machining. Combs allegedly produced 100 to 200 pounds of speed a month.
"It’s becoming more and more difficult to see who the good guys and bad guys are," said Steve Malicott, president of the Antelope Valley Chamber of Commerce. "When you do have what appear to be business leaders involved, that’s a little shocking."
Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.