'Meth camp' found in Franklin Township
FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP - An investigation into stolen batteries Monday afternoon led police to a meth-making campsite off of Extension Lane near Catawissa and the arrest of three individuals.
Locust Township Police charged Brittany M. Malernee, 25, of 4559 Tavia Lane, Shallotte, N.C., Steven C. Gatch, 40, of 2 Mersey Ct., Middle River, Md., and Michael T. Potoeski, 23, of 1115 State Route 118, Sweet Valley, with various drug offenses after items for methamphetamine making and a small amount of the narcotic were found at a campsite the three were occupying Monday.
According to court documents filed by Cpl. Christopher Snyder, Catawissa Borough Police Chief Joshua Laidecker called Locust Township Police Monday for a retail theft at the Weis Markets store in Catawissa. Store surveillance video showed two females entered the store and stood near the display of lithium batteries. The two females, one of which was identified as Malernee, were confronted by a store manager about the theft, which both denied.
Snyder, after viewing the video, identified Malernee and was able to obtain a search warrant for a campsite near Roaring Creek in Franklin Township.
The search warrant was served on the site and Malernee was taken into custody, but the batteries were not recovered. Police remained on scene to make and made contact with two males operating Malernee's vehicle at 9:10 p.m.
The officers took Potoeski and Gatch, who identified himself as "Kevin Storm" into custody. A search of Potoeski found a small tube of a white, crystalline substance in his pants' pocket. He said, at first, it was a dental substance, but then admitted it was "crank,"another term for methamphetamine. Police also found a pair of brass knuckles and multiple lithium batteries in his pockets.
A search of the campsite and the sedan they used recovered a gallon container of Coleman camp fuel, bottle of drain cleaner, Epsom salt, multiple pieces of steel wool, gas, coffee filters, batteries, a small tube of methamphetamine, a funnel and propane fuel.
Police said while there was no active meth laboratory located, they believe all three had some type of activity in the meth manufacturing process.
All three were charged with possession of multiple precursors needed in the manufacturing of methamphetamine, while Gatch and Potoeski were also charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Potoeski was also charged with possession of an instrument of a crime for the brass knuckles, while Gatch faces a charge of giving false information to authorities.
The three were arraigned Tuesday before Magisterial District Judge Craig W. Long and committed to Columbia County Prison on $50,000 cash bail. Snyder said Tuesday the reason Malernee was given the high bail for only one charge because Long ruled her as a flight risk with no ties to the area.
A preliminary hearing for all three was set for Thursday, July 31.