Meth lab found in Delhi orchard

An investigation into a stolen big rig led authorities Thursday to a methamphetamine lab in a Delhi almond orchard, Merced County sheriff's officials said. Along with the chemicals and lab equipment, sheriff's narcotics investigators seized 2 pounds of meth and about 40 pounds of meth in solution form, which is the step in the production process before the drug is crystallized, said deputy Tom MacKenzie, a sheriff's spokesman.

Deputies arrested Vincente Serrano, 42, of Turlock on suspicion of manufacturing methamphetamine. MacKenzie said Serrano was found on the property near the meth lab, and the investigation could result in more arrests. He said the orchard's owner lives out of state and that investigators were trying to determine if the owner knew about the lab.

Deputies initially responded to the 10000 block of Merced Avenue in Delhi to a report of a stolen big rig. Deputies confirmed the big rig was stolen and called for California Highway Patrol auto theft investigators. While processing the stolen big rig, officials discovered evidence of a possible meth lab in two outbuildings next to the big rig. Narcotics investigators were called out and they obtained a search warrant.

MacKenzie said investigators found portions of a "boxed" meth lab, which is the equipment and chemicals used to produce meth, in the outbuildings. He said they also discovered a pit dug behind the outbuildings, where the meth makers dumped the waste and byproduct from previous meth cooks. "The lab had the ability to produce 12-plus pounds of methamphetamine and had been in production for a couple of months," sheriff's Detective Paul Barile said.