The McMinn County Sheriff's Office this week busted three meth labs, including what Sheriff Joe Guy called "one of the largest ever discovered" in the county.

Two labs were found Tuesday in a home at 388 County Road 53. Deputies tracking James Wyatt, a suspect in a Meigs County crime, found him in the home of Rodney Swafford.

In the house, deputies noticed odors and contraband indicating the presence of a meth lab, the sheriff said. They uncovered the two labs, several firearms, surveillance cameras and a 30x173 mm military ammunition round.

"He was making meth at what you could say was a professional level," said Guy. "It was among the largest we've ever seen, but it was set up very precisely."

Federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and officers with the Chattanooga Bomb Squad assisted with disposal of the explosive device. Both Wyatt and Swafford face indictment on drug and weapons charges, he said.

On Wednesday, the county's Drug Arrest Response Team searched a home at 114 County Road 198 and uncovered a meth lab, drug paraphernalia, several firearms and two stolen ATV four-wheelers, Guy said.

Ricky McNelley was arrested and charged with promotion of meth manufacturing, theft and possession of substances for resale.

"Our office has received numerous complaints on this residence regarding suspected drug trafficking, and we hope this helps clean up the neighborhood," Guy said.

The raids come on the heels of a recent report from the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force placing McMinn County at the top of the list for meth labs for the second year in a row.

Officers seized 161 suspected labs in 2010 and more than 600 in the past decade, according to the report.

Guy said the statistics reflect the expansive meth problem in the area, but also the vigilance of his officers.

"It's such a problem, we can't afford to get behind for one second," he explained. "We try to tackle every lead, even the small ones. The longer you wait, the more labs stack up."

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at or 423-757-6673.