Originally Published: December 3, 2017 6:03 a.m.
A retired educator from southern California expressed disgust and dismay that a 28-year-old arrested for operating a drug lab in his Prescott home was not required to stay in jail until his case went to court.
Attending a MatForce Lunch and Learn program about illicit drugs at the Yavapai County administration offices on Thursday, Nov. 30, Deborah Ott of Prescott Lakes said she finds it incomprehensible that judges are willing to release suspected drug dealers from jail prior to their trial dates. She is particularly offended that someone charged with making dangerous drugs in home laboratories with chemicals that pose a fire or explosion risk to their neighbors could be released without even posting bail.
Ott referred specifically to a case that occurred on Sept. 9 in Prescott.
On that day, detectives from the county’s multi-agency Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking (PANT) were alerted to a possible illegal drug manufacturing operation in the 500 block of Karen Drive. Their investigation led to the discovery of a number of illegal drugs and note suggesting sales of those drugs along with tools to manufacture a potent form of hash with the use of butane, an “extremely dangerous” and potentially explosive process, detectives said.
The investigation determined that their suspect, Frank Soberanis, who before law enforcement was notified to the potential lab called for emergency medical help due to chemical burns of the face and hands. He was later arrested and charged on numerous counts of drug sales, use and manufacturing of illegal drugs for sale.
Despite the severity of the charges, however, Soberanis was allowed to leave the Camp Verde Jail after signing a release that he would appear in court on the various charges against him. On Nov. 8, Soberanis was scheduled for a settlement conference in Yavapai County Superior Court. No other information was available on the court website.
Ott’s incredulity over his release was shared by area law enforcement officials.
“We as a community need to be visible, and go to these hearings,” Ott said of criminal proceedings against suspected drug dealers. “What happens to our rights as law-abiding citizens … This is in everybody’s backyard. It’s upsetting.”
PANT Commander, Lt. Nate Auvenshine, and fellow law enforcement officials, did not disagree.
Yavapai County is far from immune to the national illicit drug crisis; in fact, in 2015 deputies discovered 14 pounds of pure fentanyl, an opioid painkiller that can prove lethal in small doses, during a traffic stop. Analysis determined the amount seized was enough to kill some 3.13 million non-opioid using adults.
Earlier this month, a man overdosed on what was thought to be heroin in the Humboldt Post Office. It was determined he had actually ingested a near-fatal dose of fentanyl.
PANT detectives shared information on a number of drugs that have been seized, or found to be in the systems of overdose deaths, in Yavapai County. Fentanyl is certainly on the rise, but heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, LSD, and cocaine remain troublesome, detectives said.
When it comes to prevention education, Auvenshine was clear the message has to be about the harm teens and adults alike can suffer from ingestion of any illicit drug. He, too, favors efforts to expand the list of “dangerous drugs” that warrant mandatory sentences for those who sell them.
Yavapai County’s lament is that it right now has an overdose death rate that is twice the national average, stated law enforcement officials and prevention advocates.
“Too many people are complacent,” Ott said of the local drug crisis and response. “It takes a village …we’ve all got to get involved in this to make a difference.”