Two McCreary County men each have been sentenced to more than 15 years in prison, and a third got a five-year sentence in a large methamphetamine-making operation.
The chemicals found in three searches in the case could have produced nearly 300 grams of meth, and one participant said he had helped cook meth at least 10 times before police broke up the operation, according to a court record.
"I would consider it a very large lab for southeast Kentucky," said David Gilbert, head of the Lake Cumberland Area Drug Task Force, which started the investigation.
Darrell Ray Rollins, 48; Darren Jackson Renfro; and Stephan A. Phillips 29, pleaded guilty to federal charges in the case and were sentenced Monday.
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U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar sentenced Rollins to 192 months in prison, Renfro to 189 months and Phillips to 60 months, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason D. Parman.
Rollins and Renfro had prior drug convictions.
The case started after police got a report that a man had bought 12 bottles of lye at the Lowe's store in Somerset, according to a court document.
Lye is used in making meth. People use toxic materials to distill meth out of cold medicine that contains pseudoephedrine, creating a growing drug problem in the state.
Police followed the man as he took the lye to Rollins' house, where the driver, Hugh Patterson, let them search the vehicle. Police found the lye and 300 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be used in making meth, according to a court document.
Patterson has pleaded guilty to a drug charge.
Police also found ingredients to make meth, including more than 4,800 pseudoephedrine tablets, inside a Jeep Cherokee at Rollins' house.
Rollins was not home, but two weeks later, police got a tip that he, Renfro and Phillips were cooking meth during the night in the Daniel Boone National Forest in McCreary County.
Police found Rollins' Ford Taurus in the woods and smelled a strong odor associated with cooking meth.
When they approached the meth lab in the woods, Rollins and Phillips ran and hid. When police found them, they resisted efforts to arrest them, and officers shocked each with a Taser to subdue them, a court document said.
Police later spotted Renfro hiding in a tree near the lab.
Phillips told police that people often brought ingredients used in making meth to Rollins in return for finished product.
Gilbert said he could not comment on whether there are other arrests expected in the case. It would not be unusual for guilty pleas in a drug case to generate information leading to more arrests.