By JOHN J. HOPKINS
Niagara Gazette — OLCOTT — Officers from the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office and New York State Police stormed a house in Olcott Beach Thursday night where they found a suspected meth lab. Two men were arrested and face various charges in connection with the operation.
The arrests were the culmination of a two-month investigation launched after neighbors complained of drug activity at the house.
Dearick Hoefer, 32, of Newfane, was charged with a felony count of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree.
Geoffrey Linderman, 28, also from Newfane, faces a misdemeanor charge of maintaining a public nuisance.
“They were, in fact, manufacturing and selling methamphetamine out of the residence,” said Niagara County Chief Deputy Steven Preisch.
The house at 1579 Franklin St. was cordoned off with crime scene tape and residents watching the proceedings said the location was a bundle of police activity until about 1 a.m. Friday. A police officer was stationed outside the home overnight.
Preisch said the state police are brought in for meth investigations because they have the resources to remove the hazardous materials used to manufacture the drug.
“They ensure the area is rendered safe and the materials properly disposed of,” Preisch explained Friday afternoon. “That’s what took place most of today. They’re waiting for a cleanup crew to come in and finish up the rest of the work while we continue our search.”
Thursday and Friday’s proceedings attracted local onlookers, curious as to what was disturbing the neighborhood.
“The SWAT team came in last night around 10 p.m.,” said Connie Dierolf, who has lived in the hamlet for 28 years. “I watched them all running into the house. There were too many to count.”
Dierolf said she wasn’t sure what was going on when the police suddenly showed up, but neighbors told her the house held a suspected meth lab.
According to Dierolf, the home had been occupied for “a few months” by a man who neighbors believed was house-sitting for an aunt, or possibly a grandmother.
Preisch confirmed that there is a familial relation between the homeowner and one of the men arrested. He added that the home is a rental unit.
“There had been a lot of traffic there the last few weeks, mostly at night,” Dierolf added. “We thought something was going on there. Once the cops showed up, we figured (drugs) were involved.”
Friday around 9 a.m., sheriffs deputies and state police arrived to process the scene. They began hauling the suspected lab materials outside. Among the items they removed were one-gallon milk containers which held a brown liquid, and what appeared to be Coleman lanterns. Officials dressed in white hazmat attire could be seen on the front lawn examining the material.
“They’re products that when combined are classified as a hazardous material,” Preisch said. “We also make sure that the stuff isn’t left behind for the neighbors to deal with. We make sure the property gets cleaned up.”
Meth labs contain compounds that are highly flammable, so firefighters from Olcott and Miller Hose stood by at the scene. They remained on Franklin Street until about 1 p.m.
Dierolf said the activity disrupted what is usually a very quiet street.
“This is very unusual for around here. There are a lot of kids on this street,” she said. “We don’t need (drug activity) around here.”
According to the sheriff’s office, bail for Hoefer was set at $15,000. Linderman was released on $250 bail.
The investigation is continuing and further charges may be pending, authorities said.