AUGUSTA — One man charged in connection with a methamphetamine manufacturing ring centered in an apartment in Oakland and a motel room in Waterville was sentenced Tuesday in Kennebec County Superior Court.

James Bell, 43, of Winslow, pleaded guilty to unlawful trafficking in scheduled drugs and was sentenced to five years in prison with all but 18 months suspended, and three years of probation. He also was fined $400.

The prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Katie Sibley, told Justice Michaela Murphy that Bell had purchased pseudoephedrine — a nasal decongestant that’s commonly used in the manufacture of meth — a total of 10 times between October 2013 and January 2014 while the drug ring was in operation. He bought so often, in fact, that records showed he was blocked from making at least one purchase, Sibley said.

Bell was one of six people arrested in March when Maine Drug Enforcement Agency investigators raided two apartments at 11 Center St. in Oakland and a room at the Fireside Inn on Main Street in Waterville, where authorities said meth was being produced. Police said at the time they had been investigating the methamphetamine manufacturing and sale in the Waterville and Oakland area for about a month.

Bell’s co-defendants in the case had court hearings scheduled this week as well, and there were indications in all cases that they would plead guilty to charges in connection with the drug ring.

The court appearances came the same day that officials announced Maine had won a $900,000 federal grant to fight methamphetamine manufacturing and use. The grant will pay the salaries of four drug agents over two years as well as provide equipment.


Sibley said Bell agreed to talk to investigators and admitted purchasing the pseudoephedrine for a co-defendant, saying he received meth in return.

“There was some tin foil in his apartment that had had methamphetamine on it,” Sibley said.

Bell’s defense attorney, Brad Grant, said Bell’s written statement “doesn’t say he knew it was going to made into methamphetamine,” but Grant added, “Clearly, there’s accomplice liability here.”

Conditions of probation prohibit Bell from having alcohol and illegal drugs and from having contact with the co-defendants. He also was ordered to pay $533 restitution for cleanup costs at the Fireside Inn, where police said the methamphetamine actually was being “cooked” in a motel room.

Police said at the time that those arrested had been using one-pot manufacturing, meaning a single container — such as a large juice bottle — was used to produce meth, making the drug laboratory portable.

The manufacturing process involves highly flammable and explosive chemicals, police noted at the time of the raid. Sibley said Bell was about “three rungs down” on the ranking of those involved in the meth manufacturing ring.


Corey Stevens, a co-defendant, also pleaded guilty to his role and is scheduled to be sentenced in November. Several others also charged in the same case were set for hearings this week.

“They all essentially have (plea resolution) offers that comport to their different levels of culpability,” Sibley told the judge on Tuesday.

At one point during the investigation, when a confidential informant went to buy meth in Oakland using $100 supplied by drug agents, the girlfriend of Christopher W. McEachern, 25, who faces unlawful trafficking and other charges, allegedly said, “You have no idea how many calls we are getting for it.”

Also scheduled to be in court was another co-dedefendant, Eric J. Finnemore, 38, who also is charged with unlawful trafficking among other offenses.

In connection with the same case, Katherine M. Tibbetts, 49, of Oakland, began to plead guilty Tuesday to criminal conspiracy to commit unlawful trafficking in methamphetamine. She wept openly while standing next to her attorney, Jonathan Handelman, and the judge halted proceedings and requested a conference with attorneys.

Prior to that, Sibley told the judge that Tibbetts had bought pseudoephedrine four times, always in the company of her roommate, Stevens, or a neighbor, but never alone.


“In the scheme of all six individuals, she is the least involved,” Sibley told the judge.

Sibley said the prosecution theorizes that Tibbetts was brought into the ring to purchase pseudoephedrine, and the co-defendants let her smoke some of the drug with them.

At that point, both attorneys were recommending a three-year sentence, all suspended followed by several years of probation.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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