2 men arrested after DEA investigation allegedly finds drug lab operation in SunRiver

Law enforcement personnel investigate a home in SunRiver for alleged illicit drug activity, St. George, Utah, Aug. 29, 2018 | Submitted photo, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A St. George man was charged Thursday after a federal investigation revealed a clandestine drug lab that was allegedly being operated out of a home on a quiet residential street in a 55-plus community; a second man arrested Friday was a co-conspirator in the operation, police say.

Richard James Hughes, 63, of St. George, Utah, booking photo | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Two charges were filed against Richard James Hughes, 63, of St. George, by the Washington County Attorney’s Office, including one second-degree felony charge of engaging in a clandestine laboratory operation and one third-degree felony charge of conspiracy to distribute or arrange to distribute a controlled substance.

DEA agents arrested a second suspect in connection with the case Friday. Bradley Cameron Madsen, 38, of Washington City, was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility and faces two offenses, including one second-degree felony count of engaging in a clandestine laboratory operation and one third-degree felony charge of conspiracy.

The charges stem from an investigation initiated by the Drug Enforcement Agency that began in July when agents served a search warrant upon a residence located just off of Pearl Vista Drive in the SunRiver community. Hughes had come under suspicion of operating a THC lab inside the residence, according to a probable cause statement written in support of the arrest filed with the court Thursday.

During a search of the garage, agents found laboratory equipment containing what appeared to be a “large amount of dried marijuana,” the police statement said, along with an extensive amount of isopropyl alcohol and large butane cylinders, which police believe were used during the THC extraction process.

Inside of one of the bedrooms, police say agents located several sheets of wax paper with a dark brown substance that appeared to be “marijuana wax” spread across the paper that was laid out to dry, and a presumptive test of the substance allegedly revealed that it was marijuana. In the same room, officers also discovered a box that contained a “large amount” of dried marijuana, according to court records.

Bradley C. Madsen, 38, of Washington City, Utah, booking photo posted Aug. 31, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Meanwhile, police began a search of the kitchen and in the freezer allegedly found large wax sheets containing a brown substance that appeared similar to what was uncovered in the bedroom.

At that point, agents said, they believed Hughes was operating a THC lab inside the residence with assistance. Police also allege that Hughes was in the garage when the lab was operating.

Some time later, Hughes was arrested and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility on the clandestine lab and distribution charges.

On Wednesday, a multi-agency response that included DEA agents, investigators, local police and the St. George Fire Department arrived at the residence and began to break up the laboratory, according to an area resident who spoke to St. George News Saturday.

The resident said several men in hazmat suits wearing “breathing apparatus and protective gear” were seen moving equipment from the garage sealed in large blue drums before being removed from the residence. Large ventilation fans were used to remove fumes and to air the building out.

Even with the massive response, the resident said the agents, detectives and hazmat crews were very respectful to curious neighbors who came out of their homes to find out what was going on. The operation continued throughout the day and well into the night.

“There were several vehicles — many vehicles — and personnel out here, but in all, the operation seemed to be very organized, and it was as unobtrusive as it could be with that large of an operation going on,” the resident said.

The resident said there had been no visible activity that led anyone to believe there was a laboratory operating on their street. They said there was “odd activity” that did not rise to the level of being suspicious, but they did notice vehicles “coming and going” from the home.

Charges were filed Thursday, and Hughes was released from jail after posting $15,000 bail. He has a court appearance scheduled for Tuesday.

Madsen’s bail was set at $15,000, which was posted Friday, and he has since been released from jail.

This report is based on statements from police and other witnesses and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • Carpe Diem September 1, 2018 at 9:32 pm

    Breaking Naughty.

  • sheepobserver September 2, 2018 at 7:28 am

    Thank goodness the police spent tens of thousands of dollars preventing these men from doing what is done legally 45 minutes drive south of their house? It would be interesting to see how much the total bill is for the police operation/trial will cost the Utah tax payers.

    I’m a stickler for the law, but what a waste of money is my first thought. Yeah, the laboratory stuff is a hazard, but it’s not illegal to do or have any of that stuff unless you’re making drugs with it. Anyone can have and use all of that if they’re playing chemist at home assuming the chemistry isn’t “illegal”.

    • dogmatic September 2, 2018 at 8:40 am

      Sheepman , It’s worth the money to keep these types in Nevada and keep Utah as safe as possible. It sends a clear message to others that may have the same idea ( like yourself ) that nevada is a better place for that business.
      If you are a expert like You sound like you are than why are they here instead of pot friendly Nevada?
      God bless our awesome law enforcement.

      • sheepobserver September 2, 2018 at 10:29 am

        They’re here producing drugs because there’s a market. The market always has been, and always will be here. It’s like illegal aliens, there’s a market for cheap labor and no matter how high a wall we build, the market will win the battle.

        Why spend tax money on something that could be generating tax money? It’s counter intuitive.

        The fact is, it’s here. Those drug dealers probably would spend the money they made here, I don’t know, maybe buying a new car from Stephen Wade? Maybe going out to our higher end restaurants? Maybe investing in all kinds of things here in Utah.
        Yeah a person can go drive down to Nevada, and spend their money there? But why? Money made in Utah going to support Nevada? It doesn’t make sense, when it’s already in use here.
        I understand some people don’t like it, but that’s the awesome thing about America. A person is free to dislike anything I do, and the same goes for me. It’s the freedom part of it that makes me appreciate this country.
        It’s similar to guns. I may not like how easy it is to buy one here (I own several), but it’s awesome that we can have them and hopefully use them responsibly……….but some people will always choose to use things irresponsibly. That’s the freedom part of it,……..

        I’m all for keeping Utah safe, but busting these guys isn’t going to do that.

    • Happy Commenter September 2, 2018 at 9:34 am

      Since when is enforcing existing laws a waste of money? Only a misinformed sheep could possibly come to that conclusion. BTW, who appointed you leader and watcher of the sheep? You’re a follower just like they are!

      • sheepobserver September 2, 2018 at 11:35 am

        It’s a waste of tax payer money because it’s here. Spending the money to bust these guys doesn’t prevent anything, it just costs the tax payer money. Marijuana is here. There’s no stopping it. Therefore, the time the police spent to investigate, the time the judge spent to get a warrant, the time the lab techs have to analyze every aspect of the laboratory equipment and residues, and the time the trial will take is just for show, and a waste of money, because regardless of how a person feels about the illegal drug, it is here, and it is in demand.
        It’s here. It’s here. It’s here. Duh. Did I mention it’s here? How does this small bust prevent it from being here? It doesn’t is the answer. That is the waste of time and money I speak of. The demand is here, which creates a market, which creates people to produce a product that fills the demand. It’s pretty simple.
        Feel free to articulate an answer that contradicts my own explanation, if you can?

        I follow my free will. I see with my eyes, and not with my ears. My beliefs come from observing things I’ve seen, not from things I was told to believe. That is why I consider myself an observer of sheep, rather than a follower of one. Really, though, it’s just a user name. No need to be offended by it.

        • tazzman September 2, 2018 at 12:32 pm

          By your philosophy, people are also going to commit homicide so why commit resources to it?

          Your philosophy makes little sense. By the way, your “walls wont keep illegals out” doesn’t make sense either. From the early 1920s until the mid-60s we decided we weren’t going to allow in large numbers of immigrants from several places around the world. Guess what? They didn’t get in. Not in substantial numbers anyway. And battling drugs is the same thing. It does have an impact and does make a difference.

          • sheepobserver September 2, 2018 at 2:41 pm

            Homicide hurts an innocent not wanting to be involved? Just like a lot of other things that should be illegal, like rape, or any kind of crime where one person is hurting another on purpose. As far as I know marijuana, only affects the person buying it/using it. That argument doesn’t hold bong water…….. I’d suggest the police focus their time on those kinds of crimes. We’d all be safer if they did.

            That’s the thing with immigration (I was referring to Mexican illegals). If we enforced laws that prosecuted the employer’s of illegals, it wouldn’t be necessary to build a wall. If businesses continue to go unpunished for hiring illegals when/if a wall is built there will still be a reason for cheap labor to fill the positions available. Supply/Demand philosophy makes little sense too, I suppose.

            The war on drugs, particularly marijuana, has been a failure. The impact you speak of is in your own mind/what you want to believe. Open your eyes and look at the data. The people have spoken, and the majority will have their way, good, bad, or not to your high moral standards.
            God, I love America!

        • Happy Commenter September 2, 2018 at 4:53 pm

          Looks like you are the only one here who thinks enforcing existing laws is a waste of money. You need a dose of reality…DUH!

          • sheepobserver September 3, 2018 at 1:57 pm

            Thus proving I’m not a sheep.

            Thanks for making my point!


            Enforcing laws that don’t make any difference in the long run is unintelligible. I’ll stick with everything I said.

    • Redbud September 2, 2018 at 7:06 pm

      There are many laws in Utah that a lot of us don’t personally agree with. That doesn’t mean the police are going to stop enforcing the law. If the law changes, then fine, the police will stop enforcing it. But until that time arrives, the law is the law, and it WILL be enforced, whether or not you or I agree with just some, or all of them. Sorry, but that’s just the way it works.

      • Striker4 September 2, 2018 at 8:17 pm

        It doesn’t work that way…. DUH

        • Happy Commenter September 2, 2018 at 10:05 pm

          Oh yes it does strikeout! Oh yes it does!

      • sheepobserver September 3, 2018 at 2:08 pm

        In a community/world where police resources are finite, does it make more sense to enforce laws that will protect citizens, or to enforce laws that don’t make much difference.

        If resources were infinite, I’d say enforce everything. Jay walking, they get a ticket. Dog poops and they don’t pick it up, they get a ticket. Cameras on every street light in the city to catch speeders, they get a ticket. Dog off leash, they get a ticket……..

        The thing is, we just don’t have the resources to do it all. Best to catch the rapists, child abusers, homicidal maniacs, drunk drivers, terrorists, bomb makers, wife beaters, people who abduct the unwilling……….and all of those people hurting other un-consenting people.
        Why not have the resources used on that bust to work on “cold cases” involving people actually hurt by someone else?

        Again, it’s just down the road to get what these guys were making. Absolutely illegal. I can’t disagree with that. Just like all those other trivial things I listed above that don’t really need strict enforcement. It’s a waste of time, and resources when one looks at the “bigger picture”.

  • cooper September 2, 2018 at 10:55 am

    Oh no, not marijuana. I agree with sheep observer. It is ridiculous to waste time, money, and resources on something like this. I was thinking meth lab, but then when I read that it was marijuana, head shaking and eye rolling followed. Just legalize it already.

    • dogmatic September 2, 2018 at 12:17 pm

      First it’s pot stores than it’s gambling than prostitution and mustang ranch, and all the scum that follows, it always starts with a trickle than it becomes a river and it’s all sleazy dirty money and Nevada is a good place to keep it, it’s to late to fix them.
      I don’t know if you geniuses have toured Las Vegas lately but all communities are block fenced and gated . The rest are slums with run down homes with bars on the windows. If that is what you want your future to look like than move there, I understand there is a lot of jobs.

      • Chris September 2, 2018 at 4:02 pm

        It’s hard to give credibility to someone who doesn’t know the difference between “then” and “than”.

      • Badshitzoo September 2, 2018 at 5:13 pm

        And yet you voted for Trump who bangs pornstars two at a time while his Deep cover KGB sleeper cell wife from Czechoslovakia films it all. It’s about time we started to seriously entertain what would happen if incontrovertible evidence shows up that clearly paints our President as a “Russian puppet”? What would we do ???

        • mesaman September 2, 2018 at 8:21 pm

          Prove your allegations or accept the title; … LIAR
          ed. Ellipsis

        • Striker4 September 2, 2018 at 9:22 pm

          LOL ! What a load of bull….. that is

          • Real Life September 3, 2018 at 9:43 am

            Absolutely clueless.

        • Happy Commenter September 2, 2018 at 10:06 pm

          Why is this curse word allowed for a user name?

          • Striker4 September 3, 2018 at 3:01 pm

            Because that’s the way it works

          • Paul Dail September 5, 2018 at 6:16 am

            Happy Commenter, this issue has been addressed with the commenter.

            St. George News

  • Anejo September 2, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    When marijuana is illegal is costs us money regardless of whether we use it. I’m sure the federal investigation from the beginning right the way up to the bust has cost the taxpayer plenty. The war on drugs is a lucrative business all around.

    When marijuana is legal these type of operations become a rarity because the market won’t tolerate them. The consumer will, in the majority of cases, will buy from a legal vendor. The federal investigation from the beginning right the way up the bust doesn’t have to happen and the tax money from the legal sale is returned to the system thus increasing the state revenue. Not to mention the number of public services that are no longer required and their time and resources can be used to more pressing cases.

    As mentioned above marijuana isn’t going away. Never. We can be a part of the solution, or we can be a part of the incredibly expensive problem. While I fully agree that the perpetrators should face the legal consequences we’re treating the symptoms of this problem and not focusing too readily on the cure. The old ways clearly aren’t working and it’s time for a rethink in my humble opinion.

  • NickDanger September 2, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    While I am in favor of the decriminalization of marijuana, I don’t agree with those who think these guys should’ve just been left alone. Or let me rephrase – I don’t agree with those who seem to feel there was some possibility they could have just been left alone. Marijuana is still against the law here, and probably will be for a very long time.

    Would I like to see cops nationwide begin to take a look-the-other-way attitude toward marijuana, whether or not their state has legalized it (yet)? Yes, that seems appropriate in this era when everyone is waking up to the fact that it has valid medicinal properties and is relatively harmless. But that’s not going to happen, because despite what some people in this comments section seem to think, busting someone for marijuana makes money for law enforcement, not vice versa. Attorneys get paid on both sides, property gets confiscated and sold, jails and prisons are paid by the day out of a federal kitty for housing these inmates. Modern law enforcement is a for-profit industry.

    Pretty mouth-breathing stupid actually, to run this kind of operation in St. George when they could have gotten a cheaper condo in Mesquite and run it with the garage door wide open.

    • Anejo September 2, 2018 at 1:22 pm

      ~ While I am in favor of the decriminalization of marijuana, I don’t agree with those who think these guys should’ve just been left alone. Or let me rephrase – I don’t agree with those who seem to feel there was some possibility they could have just been left alone. Marijuana is still against the law here, and probably will be for a very long time

      Fully agree with you on this one Nick. Their crime is probably laughable to those areas where this is a booming legal industry but I totally agree that they should be dealt with under the existing laws. As much as I don’t fear marijuana the same as the state of Utah does the law is the law regardless of my opinion on the matter.

  • Mike P September 3, 2018 at 10:36 am

    This was a fun read ! Loved the comments too !

    • sheepobserver September 3, 2018 at 2:09 pm

      You’re welcome.


  • 42214 September 3, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    If they really were profit motivated they would have set up a viagra lab in Sun River and a Corvette dealership.

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