by Allen Powell II
New Orleans bureau
November 21, 2012
Gretna — Gretna police arrested three suspects Sunday after a routine disturbance call at a hotel uncovered a clandestine methamphetamine lab.
Deputy Chief Anthony Christiana said that police arrested Eugene Wheeler, 37; Melissa Mackles, 30; and Jade Marinovich, 23, at the Luxury Inn, at 1411 Claire Avenue, in Gretna.
Wheeler and Mackles remain in custody without bond after being booked with creation of a clandestine lab, while Marinovich was released on Monday.
Christiana said officers were called out to the hotel by an employee who complained about guests who refused to leave the premises. When they arrived at a room, Christiana said officers noticed Wheeler appeared to be intoxicated. As officers questioned him, they could see a woman straightening up the room as well.
During the conversation, Wheeler suddenly started running and vaulted off of the second floor balcony, Christiana said. Police were able to chase him down after a short chase.
When they searched the room, they found several of the components needed to make methamphetamine, including pseudo-ephedrine pills and lithium batteries. Christiana said it appears the suspects were making the drug using the components and plastic soda bottles via a recipe found on the Internet.
According to Christiana, the suspects had commandeered several rooms, and Mackles was selling the drugs to local clientele. Officers also found materials for meth production hidden in the ceiling tiles, he said.
Christiana noted that this isn’t the first time police have been called out to the business to handle criminal activity. Police have received roughly 340 calls for service at the Luxury Inn since January, and more than half of them have resulted in a criminal complaint, Christiana said. He described the hotel as a “nuisance,’’ and noted that its counterpart on Alice Street in Marrero has some of the same issues. Christiana said police may bring the issues to the Gretna City Council to see if the board can take action against the establishment.
“They’re going to have to clean up their act,” Christiana said. Gretna has cracked down on nuisance businesses in the past, although often that involves stripping bars of their alcoholic beverage licenses.
But, Mehmood “Mac” Khan, the owner and manage of the hotel, said police are blaming him for a situation over which he has little control. Khan said he can’t discriminate against people who want to rent rooms, and once they rent their rooms he can’t force his way inside.
“If somebody comes in there and they smoke weed or meth or crack in their room, it’s not my fault,” Khan said. “What they do in a room, I can’t tell.”
He said police come to his hotel without being called at least five or six times a day. They stop his guests and check them for warrants and attachments. Khan said he tries to report any crimes he sees, but he claims there is a darker motive behind the attention from the Gretna police and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“I think it’s racism,” said Khan, citing his immigrant status and prosperity as two additional issues. “As a business owner I’m caught between a rock and a hard place.”