Phone tip leads Canton police to bust burglary ring, meth lab

VAN ZANDT COUNTY (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - A phone call by residents reporting a possible burglary led authorities to discover a burglary ring, fencing operation, meth lab and some explosive devices.

Van Zandt County Sheriff Lindsey Ray said his deputies and officers with the Canton Police Department were following up on the call Friday about 8 a.m. on County Road 4201.

"The sheriff's office had received a report that a dark green passenger car reported to be occupied by two men and two women was observed leaving the area and these individuals may have possibly just committed a residential burglary. A short time later, a man later identified as Steven McCarter of Canton was observed by officers getting into a vehicle matching the description and was observed by deputies to be in possession of two samurai style swords which officers suspected may have just been stolen from a nearby residence," he stated in a press release.

Lindsey said deputies followed the cat and made contact with McCarter and three other individuals and learned McCarter had attempted a burglary, but was scared away by the homeowner. It was also learned there had been other burglaries in the area.

After obtaining a search warrant for the residence, deputies found stolen property, items used to melt copper, methamphetamines, firearms, pipe bombs and bomb making materials.

Lindsey said his office contacted the Garland Bomb Squad and the Tyler office of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives who responded to the scene.

"Upon arrival the Garland Bomb Squad confirmed the presence of an active pipe bomb at the residence and contained and successfully destroyed the device. Along with the live pipe bomb two other inert devices were also located at the residence," he said.

Additionally the Van Zandt County Fire Marshal's Office, the Garland Health and Safety Department was contacted to inspect chemical agents that were also located on the property.

The Garland Health and Safety Department was able to take possession of these hazardous chemicals including a large quantity of mercury.

Van Zandt County Fire Marshal Chuck Allen located several violations of water pollution and illegal commercial dumping at the location, and the property owner was cited for those violations.

As the investigation continued, new information led authorities to another residence where they found a large quantity of stolen merchandise, drugs and firearms and Lindsey said it appeared to be a fencing operation where stolen property was exchanged for narcotics.

Multiple people were charged in connection with the investigation and they are awaiting arraignment this morning.

Newly elected Ray stated, "This is an excellent example of what happens when area law enforcement agencies work well together. Unfortunately our county is infested with criminals who will not work and all they want to do is break into homes and steal property from law abiding citizens and then trade it for dope. The men and women of the Van Zandt County Sheriff's Office are committed to protecting the property and the homes of our citizens. It is a difficult job because we are so outnumbered. It is rewarding, however, to work alongside the other law enforcement agencies in this county to combat these criminals and their illegal activities."

ATF Senior resident Agent in Charge, Clay Alexander said federal charges will not be sought in the case, because the devices found do not meet the federal guidelines as pertaining to the explosive devices. Not your typical pipe bomb.

However, he added they can face charges relating to the devices under state laws.


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