Scores of state drug agents and police arrested six people in Waterville and Oakland on Friday and seized evidence in connection with a large methamphetamine manufacturing operation.

Officials put much of their attention on a motel wing of Waterville Fireside Inn & Suites, where police say meth was being produced.

Arrested were five Oakland residents – Christopher McEachern, 27; Corey Stevens, 22; James Bell, 43; Katherine Tibbetts, 48; and Rachel Wolfe, 26 – and a man from Linneus in Aroostook County, Eric “Joe” Finnemore, 35.

Police have been investigating methamphetamine manufacturing and sale in the Waterville and Oakland area for about a month, said Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland.

Police said agents found evidence that Finnemore, who was charged with trafficking and manufacturing of methamphetamine, was the central figure of a group that was manufacturing and selling meth in the area.

Agents also found that members of the group were buying antihistamine drugs containing pseudoephedrine, an ingredient in the production, and several agents went undercover and bought drugs from the group, authorities said.

Gov. Paul LePage issued a statement commending the drug bust and pointing to his proposed legislation – introduced in his State of the State address last month – to expand Maine’s drug enforcement by adding four special drug prosecutors, four judges and 14 agents to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.

LePage’s press secretary, Adrienne Bennett, said after Friday’s arrests that LePage also decided to add $40,000 to the $2.7 million proposed in the bill to help pay for the protective suits that drug agents wear when dismantling meth labs. The suits can cost $2,000 and must be discarded and replaced frequently.

Before the arrests, authorities searched 11 Center St. in Oakland and a room at Waterville Fireside Inn & Suites on Main Street. A wing of the motel was evacuated after evidence of meth manufacturing was found in a motel room. The manufacturing process involves highly flammable and explosive material, police noted.

The arrests dismantled the operation, which manufactured a drug that has been gaining ground in the community recently, said Oakland police Sgt. Peter Tibbetts.

He said the suspects were using one-pot manufacturing – making meth in a single container such as a large juice bottle – so the drug lab was portable. Methamphetamine is produced through a process of chemical mixing and cooking.

Those arrested were taken to the Kennebec County jail.

Tibbetts said the police department was already familiar with all of the Oakland residents who were arrested.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

[email protected]

Kaitlin Schroeder can be contacted at 861-9252 or at:

[email protected]