Pubdate: Sat, 17 Jun 2006
Source: Daily Times, The (TN)
Copyright: 2006 Horvitz Newspapers
Author: Bill Poovey,  The Associated Press
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Selling Iodine To Make Meth Yields Jail Time

CHATTANOOGA -- A garden center owner convicted of selling iodine used 
to make methamphetamine in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama was 
sentenced to 30 years in federal prison by a judge who said he hopes 
the penalty shows such harmful greed has a high price.

Joseph Swafford, 62, was escorted from the courtroom after declining 
to comment at his Friday sentencing, which also included forfeiting 
his family business, Broadway Home and Garden Center in Chattanooga, 
to the government.

Swafford's attorney had asked U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier 
for a 10-year sentence.

A jury in March convicted Swafford on all 40 counts of an indictment 
that charged him and his business with conspiring to aid illegal 
drug-making by selling iodine to customers who used it to make meth, 
an addictive stimulant. Swafford was not accused of making the drug.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Piper said the three-year investigation 
included an agent warning Swafford to be on guard against selling 
iodine that could be used to make the drug.

Collier cited the scale of Swafford's case, saying such sale of a 
meth ingredient was unprecedented in East Tennessee.

He said evidence showed Swafford sold enough iodine -- more than 
2,500 gallons of liquid iodine and almost 3,000 pounds of iodine 
flakes and pellets -- to manufacture more than 400 kilograms of meth, 
enough to supply "every human being" in southeastern Tennessee and 
some counties in surrounding states.

Collier said the 30-year sentence would hopefully "deter those who 
might be tempted to make the same bad choice you made."

Swafford's attorney, Howell Clements, said at the trial that his 
client had nothing to do with making methamphetamine and never tried 
to hide his sales of iodine. Clements compared the government's 
charges to telling a liquor store owner you "can't sell to somebody 
you reasonably think is going to get drunk."

"If you ask all these questions you are going to be out of business," 
Clements said in closing arguments.

Prosecutors said Swafford would only accept cash when selling iodine, 
commonly used as a disinfectant and sometimes used as a remedy for 
thrush in livestock.

Hamilton County Sheriff's Department Lt. Tom Farmer said he 
personally talked to Swafford in October 2001 about methamphetamine 
cooks using iodine and advised him, "You can get yourself in trouble."

Farmer said Swafford then told him, "I don't even sell the stuff."

The investigator said Friday that he didn't know of a longer sentence 
in a meth conviction.

"I hope this warns others, 'Don't do this,"' Farmer said.

He said Swafford's profits from selling iodine exceeded $750,000.

Methamphetamine is typically cooked from a recipe that includes toxic 
household and workplace products, such as iodine, and cold medicine 
containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. The clandestine labs, 
sometimes set up in kitchens, are potentially explosive and produce 
toxic vapors.

Government evidence in the trial included testimony by convicted meth 
cooks who said they purchased iodine at Swafford's store.

Prosecutors have said the investigation took three years because 
agents were building their case. At least two iodine purchasers who 
assisted prosecutors received reduced sentences.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman