Jul 5, 2007

Task force effort results in drug arrest

CAROL A. CLARK Monitor County Editor

After three month's surveillance, an employee from the Plutonium Facility (Technical Area-55) at Los Alamos National Laboratory was arrested June 26 and charged with possession of a controlled substance.

According to Magistrate Court documents obtained in Espanola, Daren Chacon, 29, admitted to owning two plastic bags containing 30.5 grams of cocaine discovered by Middle Rio Grande Valley Task Force agents. The agents found the drugs in a pair of jeans lying on the backseat floor of the red 2007 Kia he was riding in.

In a First District Court Search Warrant, an agent with the task force stated that information was received from a confidential informant who knew "of a location where narcotics were being sold on a continuous and ongoing basis."

The informant went on to purchase cocaine from Chacon in controlled buys at his home in Gallina, according to the warrant.

"There is no indication, evidence or suspicion that the investigation of this individual is related to his job or workplace," LANL spokesman Jeff Berger said this morning. "Members of the Middle Rio Grande Valley Task Force recently approached laboratory security about a drug related investigation. The lab has cooperated fully with the task force. We have no indication that any illegal activity took place at the lab."

Berger added that LANL has a robust policy against substance abuse and illegal drug activity, including random drug testing.

According to the Statement of Probable Cause, filed in Magistrate Court in Espanola, agents were "conducting continuous surveillance upon Chacon" as he left the laboratory that day.

Chacon was noted in the document to be the passenger in the red car bearing a temporary New Mexico registration.

Chacon was followed as he traveled from Los Alamos eventually through Espanola, according to the report. As the Kia drove north on U.S. 84/285, it was detected on stationary radar at 57 mph in a posted 45 mph zone by the Rio Arriba County Deputy Sheriff.

The vehicle was stopped by the sheriff a short distance later, as stated in the court document. The female driver of the Kia was found to be the registered owner, and according to court documents, gave agent Ronnie Watkins verbal consent to search her car.

Agents found a radiation monitoring badge and a radiation protection wristband in the car along with the two bags of cocaine.

In conducting the narcotics investigation concerning Chacon, agents from the Middle Rio Grande Valley Task Force obtained a District Court Search Warrant on June 22 to search both Chacon and his residence in Gallina, which they served at 8:55 p.m. on June 26.

While searching Chacon's single-wide mobile home in Gallina, just north of Espanola, agents found a variety of rifles and ammunition in addition to 1.3 grams of cocaine in a bathroom.

The case has been assigned to Espanola Magistrate Court Judge Alex Naranjo, who set bail at $5,000.

Chacon was arraigned June 27, and according to court documents, pleaded not guilty and was released after posting a $500 cash bond.

Chacon is charged with possession of a controlled substance, which is a felony. Additional charges may be added.

Chacon refused to comment on his arrest during a telephone call later on Tuesday.

FBI spokesman Bill Elwell said this morning that FBI agents do work with the Middle Rio Grande Valley Task Force from time to time.

"Whether they worked on his particular drug investigation is not readily known," Elwell said.


Anonymous said...

Lab phonebook says uncleared.

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...

How very interesting that this incident did not get reported until after the pit party.


Anonymous said...

Now who were the idiots that were complaining about drug testing???

Open your eyes and listen to reason instead of just complaining about everthing that is "new".

Every now and then a program makes sense and drug testing is something they should have been doing a long time ago.

It will be interesting to see if they bump up the testing at 55.

Anonymous said...

Uncleared, probably because whatever clearance he had has already been yoinked.

Brad Lee Holian said...

OK, Anonymous 7/5/07 3:50 PM:

I am, by your lights, an "idiot" who complained about RANDOM drug testing. The PSAP (stands for Pee in a cup as Soon As Possible) program has been in effect at TA-55 for as long as there's been plutonium on site. People who handle Pu, guns, explosives, and/or drive heavy equipment -- but not just random theoreticians, postdocs, etc. -- have been drug tested for quite some time. They are a "select" group, not a "random" one. Big difference.

Looks like you, sir, have been sleeping at the switch for some time. Wake up and smell the pee.

-Brad Lee Holian

Anonymous said...

Did he have a "Q" before the incident?....Oh no here we go again....

Anonymous said...

Hello 3:50 PM. Please note that the Lab's tremendously "successful" drug testing program did NOT catch this person. Another great program instituted by our leaders.

Anonymous said...

Random doesn't mean 100%, nor does it mean that it will catch anyone who hasn't used within certain times before a test. However, it has caught 20 or so users, so it has shown results, even if this character's number hadn't come up yet.

Anonymous said...

He would not have been "random" drug tested if he was not PSAP/HRP. These require a Q. If he was not Q cleared then he would not have been tested. There are workers at TA-55 that are uncleared...not many but some. Was the z number low, if so then he probably lost the clearance if high then he was probably waiting for the clearance to be approved?

Anonymous said...

7:46 PM - so defensive. Those sound like Seestum's numbers that she has noted in her "communications". So you must be a manager. Perhaps an AD trying to keep the big bonus? Or a PAD trying to keep a bigger bonus?

Anonymous said...

8:04 Oh, get a life! I for one have no problem with loosing drug users and it shouldn't take an AD or a PAD (which I certainly am not) to understand that there is no place for illegal drug use at LANL. Period.

[P.S. He would have been subject to random testing if even if uncleared. "All LANL employees (not including guests/affiliates) and subcontractor employees who are holders of standard (non-visitor) badges are subject to random drug testing, provided they are on site."]

Anonymous said...

Just curious - what does this tell anyone?

"Agents found a radiation monitoring badge and a radiation protection wristband in the car along with the two bags of cocaine."

Anonymous said...

10:05 - It tells you that his dosimetry was inaccurately low.

Anonymous said...


Who said he was using drugs. Every dealer knows the rules, you do not use the stuff you sell. He would have passed that test, no problem.

How about a novel idea. Make sure you hire good people to start with.

Anonymous said...

Wristband means radioactive material handler. TA-55 means SNM. SNM means Q-clearance and HRP. HRP means drug testing. Frequent drug testing. Probably not a user himself. He'll still lose his clearance and lose his job over this, as he should.

Anonymous said...

Ok folks. This guy was an RCT under ESH (RP-1), not a rad materials handler per se. Q and HRP, no doubt, and based on his room location in the phonebook. Dosimetry in the car meant that he was taking it home with him at night. There are cubby holes outside of PF-4 that are *supposed* to be used to hold individual's wrist bands and TLDs..

Anonymous said...

In a perverse sort of way, I guess it's kind of reassuring that LANL is also lax in its rad-worker controls (as well as with security, safety, and, when you get right down to it: overall quality of management). What else would you expect, I suppose, from a lab that allows workers to track Americium all over a four state region.

I've worked at other DOE sites -- you just *don't* take your personal dosimeters home with you.

Anonymous said...

"In a perverse sort of way, I guess it's kind of reassuring that LANL is also lax in its rad-worker controls (as well as with security, safety, and, when you get right down to it: overall quality of management). What else would you expect, I suppose, from a lab that allows workers to track Americium all over a four state region."

No, rad controls are not lax at TA-55. We can only train so much but it ultimately comes down to worker compliance.

Anonymous said...

It bears noting the obvious here, too.

Drug users and dealers are known to be such diligent and compliant individuals that while they break a myriad of criminal laws, they never, ever would think of breaking any DOE, LANL or other government policies or regulations. [/sarcasm off]

Anonymous said...

What if the charges are dismissed or the guy is found innocent. Is he back at work?

John said...

To sarcastic anonymous at 12:16 PM:

Just because someone breaks one set of laws is not an indication that they are more likely to break others. Until the supreme court ruled otherwise a few years back, sodomy was illegal. Back then, would you have been in favor of random testing to find and fire all of LANL employed sodomites? They were breaking laws, so therefore they were untrustworthy people.

There are plenty of LANL employees who break traffic laws all the time, yet most of us probably still trust them not to sell secrets to China. There are LANL employees who use alcohol recreationally, yet we still trust them. Why do you believe that LANL illegal drug users are somehow a different class of less trustworthy individuals than traffic violators?

Anonymous said...


Are you suggesting that theoreticians and postdocs are above drug use?

Only a random process should be used to select individuals for testing. Are suggesting that one group is more likely to use drugs? If so, which group should be tested under your plan and which group would you leave out?

How can you find fault with a program that has removed 20+ drug users from the lab?

I am not a fan of drug testing but given the current headlines, it seems reasonable.

Anonymous said...

John, one of the primary justifications for my comment is that if a brain-altered state is achieved through the activity in question, drug use in this case, then I do believe judgement and the ability to make distinctions will likely suffer further compromise.

Most of the other illegal activity you mention doesn't reach the felony status until it extends over some defined threshold based on the risk to self, property or others. Drug use and peddling certainly can reach that threshold, with or without detection, as can policy or regulation infractions.

I realize there are a number of recreational users - of alcohol, autos, etc. - who wouldn't be likely to thumb their noses at the policies and regulations that attempt to mitigate or avoid risk for themselves, property or others in the workforce but I have my doubts that drug users or pushers, in particular, fall into that category. I'll give careful consideration as to why I formed this opinion but I may have to mull it over while I imbibe my single beer of the day.


Anonymous said...

7:27 PM - given the current headlines, it strikes me that the drug testing program is a big expensive and LANL-improperly-managed failure of an experiment. Drug-sniffing dogs used to be used and would have caught this but we cut that for cost-savings under LANS. I don't use drugs but I am treated by my organization as if I do. What is your logic?

Anonymous said...

7:27 PM: you are a perfect LANS follower - you believe every statistic they feed you. Where are the names and don't tell me it is a personnel issue as they have released names of people involved in other "criminal" activities ...

Anonymous said...

8:25 How would you separate the drug users who we need to fire from people like you who don't use drugs?

or are you saying they don't exist? or perhaps they aren't really a problem?

Please shed some light?

Anonymous said...

8:27 I personly know a worker who was fired after peeing positive for cocaine at TA-55. We knew about him before he was tested but no one ever had the balls to say anything. When he was caught, no one was suprised.

If you don't believe they are getting rid of dopers, ask around. Start with your TA-55 friends, they'll tell you.

John said...


Thanks for your thoughtful reply. So often lately I've been discouraged by people not actually being willing to have real dialog and to allow themselves to consider opposing viewpoints.

I'm mostly just frustrated with this random drug testing policy because of how it lumps marijuana together with much more dangerous drugs. This is just bad science and bad public policy. I've had a lot of exposure to marijuana; I have know many successful people in all walks of life (but not LANL employees:) who are able to use marijuana without detriment. But Nancy Reagan has fooled so many of us into believing that if it's classified as illegal then it will necessarily turn your brain into a scrambled egg. In marijuana's case, this is just plain ridiculous. I am disappointed that such ridiculous fallacies persist in general society and dismayed that this bad science and bad public policy is further perpetuated by LANL which is supposed to be the country's premiere scientific institution.

I support the legalization and regulation of marijuana. However, it does seem that other drugs, with which I'm not familiar, such as meth, are much more dangerous. Pretending that marijuana is equally as bad as these other drugs really wastes tons of resources (police, judges, jail, treatment, etc). And while I totally support the lab's desire to protect itself, I fail to see how random drug testing does so. Impairment tests are much better to protect us from accidents and managerial oversight should protect us from those who have been made crazy by mind-altering drugs.

I'm just jealous that you can mull your reply over a beer but I can't mull mine over a joint.

And to these others who feel that we've caught 20 so it must be a good policy: Why? Why is it good to fire 20 drug users? Were they bad employees? If they were bad employees, was there no other way to discover this? Or was their drug use the only bad thing about them? In which case, what makes their drug use bad? Just its illegality? In that case, we should absolutely immediately implement random screens for red light runners. Sarcasm did offer a reasonable justification to distinguish between other crimes and drug use which is his concern that drug use can alter brains. In which case random drug testing is still not ideal because marijuana is no more likely to addle our brains than are plenty of legal activities such as alcohol, contact sports, and prescription drug abuse. We really don't have co-workers and managers we can trust to notice that someone is suddenly brain damaged that we need to resort to such a poor filter as random drug testing?

Anonymous said...

2:27 AM Your comments scare me. I'm not trying to start an argument on the pro's and con's of illegal drug use. For me and many Americans, if it is illegal, that is sufficient. If you disagree, work within the system to get it legalized. In my humble opinion, there is no place for illegal activity of any kind at LANL, including drug use. Contrary to some beliefs this is a serious lab doing serious work and not a college campus where disobedience is to be applauded (and let's not confuse civil disobedience with criminal disobedience). An employee that intentionaly breaks the law is not one of our "best and brightess." The opportunity for damage to the already faltering lab is just to great.

I have also had personal experience with marijauna in the form of a family member that could have been great, but chose marijauna instead. No so-called hard drugs, just marijauna. His arguments today, are much like those you offer. This comment doesn't have enough space to tell of the pain and disappointment he and we have faced over the years and continue to face today (he is in his late 40's).

So please, I applaud your right to voice your opinion, but illegal is illegal. Illegal drugs have no place in our work place.

Anonymous said...

Sarcasm did offer a reasonable justification to distinguish between other crimes and drug use which is her concern that drug use can alter brains. [end revised]

The random drug testing is one of the most readily available and easily implemented (albeit expensive & imperfect) methods which achieves the management's objectives: control, intimidation and individual reductions in budget burden for cause - even if the 'cause' is relatively minor in comparison to other risks.

With the earlier modifications in policy that followed the Nanos' suspension, we now have clauses in the policies that are incredibly subjective. potentially giving supervisors and managers an easier way to include an evaluation of an individual's personality or approach in the performance process without as much documentation or actual incidents of non-compliance as might have been necessary prior to the re-write of the policy.

I'm not saying that the performance evaluation need not ever include an assessment of the factors such as personality, but I would like to think that any issues derived strictly from personality would have to result in a compromised performance or it could end up being a personality conflict and you're outta there.

Oh wait, we're all 'at will' and can be outta there anyway.


Anonymous said...


You scare me. By the way do you really think marijuana is the cause of problems
of your family member? Did it ever occur to you that there could be other reasons, such as mental, religious or personal choice. What about all those people who do use marijuana occasinally and do great in life.

Do far worse legal drugs have a place at our work?

When did Americans lose the ability to think?

Anonymous said...

While I generally agree with the 2AM poster, and feel that Marijuana laws are largely a drain on law enforcement and prison resources, there is the simple fact that the law is the law. An ordered society survives by people following the law regardless of whether the agree with it. The point of a society like ours is that the law is not permanent, and given effort and popular support, it can be changed. BUT, until it changes, we must follow it. If people choose to not work with the system but bypass it, then problems ensure, and quite honestly, it empowers the law to clamp down HARDER on the laws people may wish to change.

There are laws - follow them, regardless of if you agree/disagree with them. If you feel so strongly about them changing, then work towards change, don't ignore them.

If you work at LANL and want to puff that joint with your comment, go for it. I could use your funding when we kick your law-breaking ass out on the street.

Anonymous said...

You people irritate me. Drug testing at LANL is now a reality, it is part of the LANS portfolio, along with our new at-will employment status and reduced benefits which we all enjoy.

The pee trucks are overtly placed where they are to intimidate, and to rub your noses in the realities of your new work environment.

If you don't like it, go somewhere else, but I sure would appreciate it if you quit whining about it.

Anonymous said...

2:27 AM, Your 12:19 comment makes my case. Keep justifying your use, ignore reality, and have a great life! Don't be confused by facts that don' fit your views. But most people that fall prey to such things usually start with “It won’t happen to me, I know when to stop, or all my friends are doing it and they don’t have a problem.”

(As to what might have occurred to me over the years about my family member - living it has made us quite knowledgeable on the topic, so your cavalier attitude is wasted on me.)

Others commenting here make a great case for observing the law. I would encourage you to take the arguments seriously, but my expectations that you will do so are low.

John said...

Uh hey 7/7/07 3:07 PM, please allow me to clear some things up for you:

I'm the 2AM pot-positive guy again. I'm not however that 12:19 author though. You might notice I sign my posts John (i.e. it doesn't say "anonymous said"). Also, my jealousy that Sarcasm can use her drug of choice but I can't implies that I am not currently using marijuana. So while I appreciate you encouraging me to abstain, it's really not necessary. Again, this also means that I'm not "justifying my use" because I'm not using. I'm merely trying to present an argument against prohibition and to express my disappoint that the lab is on what I believe to be the science-ignoring side of the illegal drug use question. I'm sorry that you weren't able to read my argument correctly but hopefully you are able now to recognize that someone could make that argument and not be a drug user.

I'm truly deeply sorry for your family member's situation. However, I do agree with 12:19 that it's unlikely that marijuana caused it; more likely that marijuana accompanied it. Certainly I feel that science and statistics are on my side and that alcohol and gambling and exceeding the speed limit have destroyed many, many more lives than have marijuana. Well, let me amend that: marijuana has destroyed many lives due to its prohibition. Students become ineligible for financial aid, potential parents lose the right to adopt, orphans lose potential excellent parents, others are incarcerated and raped by violent offenders. Yes, those lives have been destroyed. But they've been destroyed by the prohibition against marijuana and not by marijuana itself.

And finally you say that you hope
I heed the arguments that others have made for following the law. I don't mean to be dismissive, but frankly I've yet to hear anything persuasive. I do agree in principle that society is based upon all of us agreeing to obey the laws but frankly violating prohibitions against victimless crimes doesn't strike me as a societal threat. I apologize for continuing to harp upon sodomy, but would those in favor of always following the law have urged gays to abstain from sodomy 3 years ago before the Supreme Court finally legally unbuttoned their pants? And don't forget! Some of us straights like sodomy too!

Personally, I quit marijuana when I accepted my LANL position (before the random testing) because I signed a contract that said I would. But I miss it and now I'm an aggressive grumpy drunk instead of a mellow laid-back stoner.

[Sarcasm, where'd you go? I don't think you always agree with me, but I always like reading what you write! Now I've jinxed it and the next thing from you will be: Shut up you long haired hippie freak!]

Anonymous said...


Brilliant post on many levels. It shows that this blog has the potential for some very intellectual thinking and ideas. Your post sounds like something that could be found on a serious philosophy blog.

Anonymous said...

I was breaking the law by cohabitating in NM before 2001, when the law was repealed. Should I have been able to work at LANL during that time? DOE apparently had no problem when I filled out the cohabitant form.

Anonymous said...


I haven't left, just considering that there are other people out here who are thoughtfully responding and giving them the floor.

Funny, I didn't picture you as a long-haired hippie freak.


Anonymous said...

Lanl spokesman Jeff Berger said,"LANL has a robust policy against substance abuse and illegal drug activity, including random drug testing." Robust is defined as: vigorous or firm in purpose and random is defined as: lacking a definite plan or purpose, so I guess I am confused as to just what he means by his statement. elzo