Authorities: $4 million meth ring busted; suspects cooked drug at mall

A drug investigation has resulted in the arrest of 26 people who were responsible for making or distributing more than $4 million of methamphetamine, authorities said Thursday.

In one case, investigators say the manager of a store in Concord Mills Mall was cooking meth after the store closed.

Twenty-six people were arrested as a result of a four-county investigation, Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten said.

The 26 were arrested and taken into federal custody over the last three months. Most were from North Carolina; others were found in Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina and Indiana.

“All 26 folks pleaded guilty and were sentenced without a trial of any of these 26 people,” Auten said. “That’s highly unusual that out of 26 people that you don’t have anyone to test the waters and try you out on a case, so it’s just a lot of good work that went into this case.”

The bust involves several law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels. The investigation reportedly started Oct. 2, 2013, and included the Stanly County Sheriff’s Office, Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, Salisbury Police Department, Mooresville Police Department and the Landis Police Department and the State Bureau of Investigation.

During the investigation, officials say they found 11 places in various counties where methamphetamine was being made. Three of those locations were inside vehicles. Investigators believe this group produced or distributed drugs with a street value of more than $4 million.

Five places in Salisbury were found to be clandestine meth labs, according to the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office. Labs were also found in Faith, China Grove, Stanfield and Concord. Meth labs in vehicles were also found in Salisbury, Mooresville and Hamlet.

Investigators discovered that Lindy Pistone, former manager of the RCC Western Store that used to be in Concord Mills, had several friends over after hours, 10 to 12 times, to cook methamphetamine inside the store’s bathroom.