Two charged in connection with drug lab explosion
SAN DIEGO – Two defendants, Gregory Amos and Christopher Hernandez, were charged this week in connection with a March 2018 explosion and fire resulting from their operation of a butane hash oil lab in a residential Vista neighborhood. Amos and Hernandez are scheduled to be arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jan M. Adler on Friday, Sept. 7 at 2:00 p.m.
According to the complaint, in the morning hours of March 27, 2018, an explosion and fire on the balcony of a residence located on Barbara Drive in Vista shattered the glass door of the balcony and blasted dozens of cans of butane into the surrounding area. In the wake of the explosion, investigators discovered an active butane hash oil lab in the residence where the fire originated. After extinguishing the fire and securing the scene, investigators located a number of items related to a BHO manufacturing laboratory, including kilograms of marijuana, hundreds of cans of butane, glass tubes and other manufacturing items. Agents also seized approximately one pound of cocaine and three firearms including a Del-Ton DT-15 5.56 mm rifle and a Smith and Wesson 9 mm semi-auto pistol.
BHO labs are highly dangerous facilities used to extract tetrahydrocannabinol, a schedule I controlled substance found in marijuana plants, through the use of butane. The manufacture of BHO is a violation of federal law, Title 21, U.S. Code, Section 841. The manufacture of BHO is also a violation of California state law, Health and Safety Code, Section 11379.6. Since January 2018, law enforcement has responded to at least 17 illicit BHO labs in San Diego County (three of which had fires and or explosions).
BHO is similar in appearance to honey or butter. It contains extremely high levels of THC and can be up to four times more potent than high-grade marijuana. BHO is commonly manufactured by packing marijuana into a glass, plastic, or metal tube. Butane is then sprayed into the top of the tube. The butane strips the marijuana of its cannabinoid-containing oils, which drip from the bottom of the tube, often through a filter and into a holding container. The end product is highly-profitable and can be ingested as an oil, consumed in edibles, or solidified to make concentrated forms of cannabis known as “wax.”
During the manufacture of BHO, butane, a flammable gas that is odorless, colorless, and heavier than air, can evaporate out of the substance and collect on the floor, accumulating to explosive levels without proper ventilation. This process creates an invisible, but very real, risk of fires, explosions, and chemical burns.
“Drugs are dangerous. End of story. Nothing would have exploded if someone did not want to dab high potency THC,” said Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers. “You have a choice. Your choice has a consequence. Those consequences apply to those around you. Just ask their neighbors.”
This case is the result of ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high-level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations and enterprises.
Other Agencies: United States Attorney’s Office, San Diego Sheriff’s Department, San Diego Police Department, Vista Fire Department, Department of Justice, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force