Prosecutor seeks more meth cases on federal level

Thursday, November 3, 2005

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Investigators need to offer more methamphetamine cases to the U.S. Attorney's Office, a federal prosecutor said.

Speaking at meeting on meth initiatives in Sikeston on Wednesday, federal prosecutor Catherine Hanaway highlighted how the U.S. Attorney's Office can increase the range of punishment for meth charges. She laid out the thresholds at which state methamphetamine cases can be made into federal cases.

Offenders often receive longer sentences in federal court than in state court, and they serve at least 85 percent of federal sentences.

Hanaway also said prosecutors need to accept more of the smaller cases, citing assistant federal prosecutor Larry Ferrell in Cape Girardeau as one who has done that. She said she will appoint a full-time prosecutor in St. Louis to manage only meth cases.

The meeting on meth initiatives comes as Missouri has seen a decline in meth lab busts. A state law that passed in July placed all pseudoephedrine and ephedrine products behind pharmacy counters. Law enforcement agencies and pharmacies are able to track pseudoephedrine purchases, which leads to meth lab busts. Number of meth lab busts in August was half that in August last year.

"Lab busts are down, but that does not mean that methamphetamine is going away," Hanaway said.

The eastern half of Missouri lags behind the western half in meth lab busts, she said. That is largely due to pseudoephedrine being imported from Illinois, which is the only state bordering Missouri that does not have laws that place pseudoephedrine behind pharmacy counters. Arkansas has such a bill pending.

Also, law enforcement agencies are seeing a rise in pseudoephedrine purchases on the Internet and through the mail, Hanaway said. Such cases often involve offenders who not only produce meth but also commit identity theft in order to slow the tracking of purchases.

jmetelski@semissourian.com

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