Felony charges against three defendants are to be dismissed after what was called the largest seizure of methamphetamine in Carson Valley history turned out to be 9 pounds of a substance frequently used to dilute the illegal drug.
Assistant District Attorney Michael McCormick filed motions in District Court on Wednesday to dismiss charges against Valdene Elaine Roberts, 57, of Gardnerville, Nayo Orozco-Ortiz, 28, of Carson City and Crispin Pacheco, 35, of Carson City.
Orozco-Ortiz and Pacheco, are in custody in Douglas County Jail on more than $100,000 bail each, and still face holds placed by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement.
McCormick said it was the first time in his 21 years as a prosecutor that he has seen the field test used on drugs turn up a false positive.
"We tested the drugs as we always do with what is called the (narcotics identification kit) test and it came back positive," McCormick said.
The test results were used to establish probable cause and trio was arrested Dec. 22 at the Sweetwater Car Wash in Gardnerville.
Authorities believed they had seized methamphetamine with a $400,000 street value.
McCormick said the substance "had all the appearance of meth."
"It was wrapped in plastic and the NIK test did flash positive showing presumptive for drugs," McCormick said.
The Douglas County grand jury returned indictments against the suspects.
McCormick said the substance was sent to the Washoe County Sheriff's Office Forensic Science division.
"We got the report back and it said the substance was dimethylsulfone which is a common agent used to cut meth to increase the quantity to make more money," McCormick said.
He said a sample was sent to a Drug Enforcement Administration agency lab in Southern California which confirmed the Washoe County results.
"They said it was 99 percent dimethylsulfone and 1 percent something else," he said.
"Somewhere somebody got duped," McCormick said. "Either these people believed they had 9 pounds of methamphetamine and after they took possession of it, it got switched, Or they got sold 9 pounds of bunk."
He said the Washoe County lab analyst couldn't explain why the test flashed a false positive.
He said because dimethylsulfone is not a controlled substance, charges were dismissed.
"We believe they thought they had meth, but that doesn't help us prosecute them," he said. "If there had been a sale, we could prosecute. In this case, it was only delivery; there was no money exchanged."
Authorities were tipped to the transaction by an informant.
Roberts was charged with trafficking in a controlled substance and conspiracy to violate the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.
Orozco-Ortiz was charged with two counts of trafficking in a controlled substance and one count of conspiracy to violate the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.
Pacheco was charged with one count of trafficking in a controlled substance and one count of conspiracy to violate the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.