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Meth operation busted; said to be largest to date | News

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Meth operation busted; said to be largest to date

Reports of a stolen car lead Citrus County deputies to discover what they're calling the largest meth operation the sheriff's office has seen to date.

According to officials, the operation involved, "a whopping 24 one-pot methamphetamine labs at a nearby double-wide mobile home in Lecanto."

Theodore Gene Benfield, 37, and Lesle Evon Benfield, 35, were arrested Friday for the massive meth operation. In addition to possession and manufacturing charges, the Benfields were charged for having at least three children under the age of 16 on the same property as the labs.

Officials said the Department of Children and Families removed the children from the home. According to Tactical Impact Unit Detective Aidan Marshall, was an extremely unsafe for place for kids.

Photos: Pictures from the scene

"I've never seen this many one pot methamphetamine labs in a single home," Marshall said. "TIU methamphetamine detectives and Fire Rescue hazmat operators could not even enter the residence without protective breathing apparatuses due to the fumes. The conditions inside the home were absolutely deplorable and it is unbelievable that parents would subject their children to these extremely hazardous conditions."

The one-pot process and all it involves poses a huge risk to anyone in or around the area, officials said, as it commonly causes explosions, fires and potentially fatal chemical inhalation.

To put into perspective just how large a 24 one-pot operation is, the sheriff's report said most meth manufacturing arrests stem from operations involving one or two one-pot labs. 

No matter the size of the operation, Sheriff Jeff Dawsy says meth manufacturers have no place in his county. 

"I have said it before and I will continue to say it, we will not tolerate meth production in this county," Dawsy said. "So if you're going to do it, save us all the trouble and get out of Citrus. If not, just know that the clock is ticking until we find you."