Strike Force Thermal: Richard Angelo Merola denied bail after alleged drug lab discovered in Mackenzie St, Tenterfield

Drug lab uncovered: Police cordoned off the Mackenzie Court home in Tenterfield and dismantled the alleged clandestine lab over the New Year period. Photo: Fire and Rescue NSW
Drug lab uncovered: Police cordoned off the Mackenzie Court home in Tenterfield and dismantled the alleged clandestine lab over the New Year period. Photo: Fire and Rescue NSW

A MAN charged in connection to an alleged drug lab uncovered in a Tenterfield house will stay behind bars.

Richard Angelo Merola remains in custody and appeared in Armidale Local Court on Monday facing three charges.

Merola, 42, was arrested in Tenterfield in late-December and is accused of conspiring to manufacture more than a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug, participating in a criminal group and contributing to criminal activity, and possessing a prohibited drug.

Merola, who was self-represented in court, was not required to enter pleas to the charges which stem from an secret operation, code named Strike Force Thermal by Richmond police.

Hazmat incident: Firefighters decontaminated the area after the backyard lab was discovered in Tenterfield. Photo: Fire and Rescue NSW

Hazmat incident: Firefighters decontaminated the area after the backyard lab was discovered in Tenterfield. Photo: Fire and Rescue NSW

The charges have been referred to the DPP because of the seriousness of the allegations.

Merola made no application for bail and it was formally refused by Magistrate Mark Richardson who ordered Merola stay in custody until the case returns to court later this month.

Strike Force Thermal was launched to investigate the manufacture and supply of prohibited drugs in the Casino area but spread to the New England during a series of raids in late-December.

Police allegedly uncovered a clandestine drug lab in a home in Mackenzie Court in Tenterfield with Fire and Rescue crews as well as specialist forensic police called in to dismantle the lab. 

Crime scene: Police cordoned off the home in Mackenzie Court while specialist officers were called in from Sydney. Photo: Fire and Rescue NSW

Crime scene: Police cordoned off the home in Mackenzie Court while specialist officers were called in from Sydney. Photo: Fire and Rescue NSW

Police allege in addition to the clandestine lab, other items and drug paraphernalia were uncovered and said all items were seized for forensic examination.

Police said six men and women have been charged in connection to Strike Force Thermal.

In addition, houses in Canterbury Street, Stapleton Ave, Callistemon St, Casino, and Nandabah Street, Rappville and Pinnacles Road, The Pinnacles have also been raided as part of the investigation.

Police allege firearms, cash, drug equipment, chemicals believed to be used in the manufacture of drugs as well as other items have been seized.

Hazmat incident: Firefighters decontaminated the area after the backyard lab was discovered in Tenterfield. Photo: Fire and Rescue NSW

Hazmat incident: Firefighters decontaminated the area after the backyard lab was discovered in Tenterfield. Photo: Fire and Rescue NSW

Detective Inspector Cameron Lindsay said police were determined to get ‘ice’ off the streets.

“Ice is an extremely destructive drug and we are throwing as many resources as we can at this scourge, which continues to claim lives in our region,” he said.

“We ask anyone with information about the supply of ‘ice’ in this area to contact Crime Stoppers.”