Police in Maine arrested two homeless men for manufacturing and trafficking in methamphetamine on Wednesday.
Charles E. McNeice, 46, formerly of Gray, was charged with aggravated trafficking in methamphetamine and violation of conditions of release. Police say they believe he may haven been the ringleader of a local meth operation that used homeless residents to purchase needed manufacturing materials.
Joshua R. Mershimer, 33, formerly of Portland, was also charged with conspiracy to commit trafficking in methamphetamine.
The arrests stemmed from a traffic stop made by Oxford Police around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. Police said they stopped a vehicle driven by McNeice on Main Street in Oxford. McNeice was operating the vehicle without a valid driver's license and he was also out on bail for a felony theft charge out of York County. Mershimer, a passenger in the vehicle, had an outstanding arrest warrant for failing to pay fines in Cumberland County.
During the traffic stop, officers recognized items in the vehicle that are commonly used in the use and making of methamphetamine. The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency responded to the scene and seized a number of items of evidence of manufacturing, as well as methamphetamine powder.
McNeice and Mershimer were arrested and transported to Oxford County Jail. McNeice was denied bail and was scheduled to appear in court on Thursday. Mershimer's bail was set at $5,000 cash.
DEA agents also located two additional locations in Gray where the two had attempted to dispose of chemicals and other items used in the manufacturing process, police said. A bag containing chemicals was located in the woods at the intersection of Hunts Hill Road and Tami Trail, and the burned out remains of a one-pot laboratory was ofund in the woods off Ramsdell Road.
Police said McNeice is a suspect in two other meth lab incidents that agents responded to earlier this year in Kittery and Pownal. Those investigations are ongoing and McNeice has not been charged.
Police said a number of other homeless residents from the Portland area have been identified by the DEA as having been recruited by McNeice to purchase pseudoephedrine and other items essential to manufacture methamphetamine. These individuals would allegedly return items provided by McNeice to area stores for cash or gift cards and would then purchase items requested by McNeice needed to manufacture methamphetamine. The investigation is continuing, and police said additional arrests are expected.