By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — A Falls man accused of running a clandestine meth lab in the garage of his mother’s Echota neighborhood home has agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors.
Pedro Jose Velazquez, 28, 87 A St., pleaded guilty in Niagara County Court to charges of third-degree unlawful manufacture of methamphetamine. He also pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree auto stripping in an unrelated vandalism case.
Velasquez had sought a deal that would have put him in a court-supervised drug treatment program, but he was rejected for that program.
Instead, Velasquez will face up to 2 1/2 years behind bars when he’s sentenced on April 25.
Velasquez had taunted Falls police narcotics detectives and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents almost from the moment they discovered his lab in April. He even sent a cryptic text message to Detective Joe Palmero.
It read, “Come get me.”
A month later, detectives finally caught up with him when he was caught shoplifting at a Portage Road supermarket.
“He had three sandwiches,” Palermo said. “He told us he was so hungry from hiding out from us that he had to shoplift to eat.”
Local narcotics detectives and DEA agents had been drawn to Velasquez’s mother’s home by the amount of traffic neighbors had reported seeing there. After patrol officers were called to the house for a domestic violence complaint, narcotics detectives decided to follow up and pay Velasquez’s mother a visit.
The detectives asked for permission to search the house and items they found in Velazquez’s bedroom aroused their suspicions. When they went out to the detached garage in the backyard, their worst fears were realized.
It was the first functioning meth manufacturing lab that anyone in law enforcement could ever remember being found in the city.
“Seeing what we saw in there, we knew what we were dealing with,” Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto said at that time. “And we knew how violatile that can be.”
The Falls narcotics investigators evacuated nearby neighbors and called for assistance from Falls firefighters and the DEA. Firefighters stood by during the search because some of the chemicals used to manufacture meth can be explosive.
Among the items taken from Velazquez’s garage was a bottle used to mix meth that had apparently exploded and melted into a glass mirror. DEA agents described that lab as being like ones they commonly find.
DEA agents, dressed in Hazmat suits, moved all the contents of the garage outside and a DEA clean-up contractor, from Pittsburgh, was called-in to finish decontaminating the area.
A week after the discovery of Velazquez’s lab, another lab was found in the Town of Niagara.