Deputies found meth on a Southern California hotel worker last week when he was arrested and jailed on an outstanding warrant, authorities said — and deputies now suspect the worker had been cooking up drugs in the hotel itself.
Staff at a Courtyard by Marriott in Goleta stumbled upon “suspicious chemicals” in the hotel’s boiler room and called 911 on Tuesday around 9 a.m., the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. Deputies went to the hotel and found that the chemicals were the makings of a drug lab. Firefighters were called in case the suspected lab was flammable.
The hotel wasn’t evacuated because there was “no immediate threat,” but guests staying near the boiler room were moved elsewhere, deputies said. Kelly Hoover, a sheriff’s office spokesperson, said the hotel was “very cooperative.”
“The safety and security of our guests and associates is always a top priority,” Shiona Wood, general manager of the hotel, wrote in an email to McClatchy, adding that as police investigate “we stand ready to assist.”
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Drug detectives suspected the lab was intended to make dimethyltryptamine, which is often called DMT — a “powerful hallucinogenic drug” that is made by pulling “chemicals from root bark through the use of highly toxic and flammable chemicals in an extraction vessel over an open flame,” according to deputies.
“If you suspect this type of illegal activity is occurring, call law enforcement right away,” deputies advised.
DMT users experience heightened heart rates, agitation and “hallucinations frequently involving radically altered environments as well as body and spatial distortions,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The sheriff’s office warns that the drug can also cause “overwhelming fear,” paranoia and feelings of impending doom, lung problems, high temperatures, stomach trouble and more. The drug can even be deadly: “DMT users can also go into a state of unconsciousness or slip into a drug-induced coma which can lead to death due to the user vomiting or choking,” deputies said.
Deputies called in the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force to help take the lab apart, which took most of the day and night, the sheriff’s office said.
The man behind the reported drug lab was Aaron Gorzeman, 37, of Oxnard, deputies said. He was a maintenance worker at the hotel — but he was already in the Santa Barbara County Jail by the time the DMT lab was discovered. Deputies arrested him in the Courtyard by Marriott parking lot on Jan. 26 on a warrant and then found he had methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia on him, the sheriff’s office said.
Gorzeman had been recently hired by Marriott and “had been there less than three weeks,” Hoover said.
Deputies said they found even more evidence of drug manufacturing when they searched the hotel and Gorzeman’s car. Authorities also searched the suspect’s home in Ventura County.
Deputies booked Gorzeman on new charges for drug manufacturing, the sheriff’s office said. He remains in jail on $100,000 bail.