NEWBURYPORT — A Georgetown man accused of operating a ketomine conversion lab inside a Rowley self-storage unit turned himself in to Rowley police yesterday morning and is being held on $10,000 cash bail following his arraignment at Newburyport District Court.
Timothy Ryan Vonallgeier, 24, of 59 Old Jacobs Road, remained silent in court as Essex County prosecutor Nathaniel Sears said his laboratory was likely only the tip of the iceberg of a ketamine distribution facility that saw the defendant ship the recreational party drug to customers as far away as Hawaii and California. Sears asked Vonallgeier be held on $250,000 cash bail pending his next court case.
Vonallgeier’s attorney, Joseph Balliro Jr., decried the prosecutor’s request for such high bail, saying the facts of the case didn’t warrant such a penalty and that there was no way his client or his family could come close to raising that kind of money.
“I doubt very much they can raise $500,” Balliro said. “It’s essentially slamming the cell door on Timothy,” Balliro said.
Judge Peter Doyle ordered Vonallgeier held on $10,000 cash bail until a pretrial hearing scheduled for July 23. As part of his bail conditions, Vonallgeier must surrender his passport, stay within Massachusetts, remain drug- and alcohol-free with random screens and be monitored by a GPS tracking system.
Among those in the courtroom were his mother and fiancee, who, according to Balliro, is pregnant. Following arraignment, Balliro declined to comment when approached by a reporter outside the courtroom.
According to court records, in 2007 Vonallgeier was arrested by Georgetown police and charged with possession of a class D substance to distribute, possession of a class D substance (marijuana) and having a controlled substance in a school zone.
Vonallgeier’s arraignment caps off a busy 48 hours for Rowley law enforcement who raided Vonallgeier’s self-storage unit inside ABZ Self Storage off Route 133, only a few yards away from Interstate 95, Tuesday around 11 a.m. A hazmat team wearing white suits and oxygen masks entered the storage unit and removed two cylinders, a microwave oven and chemicals found on the ground. It was later determined that the chemicals were part of a ketamine conversion lab.
Rowley Detective Lt. Joseph Gamache said Vonallgeier’s attorney contacted police Wednesday after a warrant for his arrest was issued and told authorities his client would turn himself in. Meanwhile, Rowley police obtained a warrant to search Vonallgeier’s Old Jacobs Road home.
Ketamine, sometimes called “Special K,” produces a powerful but short-lived hallucinogenic effect that has made it popular among club-goers and those attending rave parties. It can be snorted, smoked or injected. When used for its intended purpose, ketamine is an anesthetic used on humans and animals.
Monday’s seizure came after police received complaints of suspicious activity and a strong odor around the unit. An initial investigation by Rowley police led to authorities’ obtaining a warrant to search the storage unit. With that information, police organized assets from several nearby communities, state police and the Drug Enforcement Agency before descending upon the storage unit.
According to the report of Rowley police officer Matthew Ziev, agents recovered ledgers noting lists of sales and debts owed to Vonallgeier. Two electronic scales, empty ketomine bottles, propane tanks and gas cylinders containing nitrous oxide were also found. Through his experience as an officer, it was apparent to Ziev that the storage unit contained all the workings for a drug conversion lab and distribution center.
Also found during the police investigation were two driver’s licenses with false names, a forged cable bill and an American Express charge card.
In the days preceding Tuesday’s raid, Ziev watched hours of video surveillance showing Vonallgeier entering the 5-by-10-foot storage unit and leaving the corrugated metal door open slightly at the bottom. He also saw other men assisting Vonallgeier with various tasks. Vonallgeier’s alleged activity caught the attention of the storage facility’s manager and the man who rented the unit next him, according to Ziev’s report.