LSD Trial

DEA: Informant concealed $2.6 million in illicit chemicals

The Wamego Times, Vol 116, No 5, Jan 30, 2003
Mark Portell
Wamego Times Editor

The government informant in the LSD case at the former Wamego missile base
concealed from federal authorities illicit chemicals valued at an estimated $2.6
million, a task force officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration testified last

Ralph Sorrell, completing five days of testimony, said Gordon Todd Skinner,
former owner of the missile base, hid 26 cannisters of ergotamine tartrate (ET), a
precursor chemical in the manufacture of LSD, at his inlaws' house at Manhattan
after his immunity agreement with the government and prior to the bust at the
missile base November 6, 2000. The cannisters of ET had an estimated value of
$100,000 each, Sorrell said.

Skinner received immunity from prosecution in exchange for his cooperation
with authorities in the case against William Leonard Pickard, 57, and Clyde
Apperson, 47, both of the San Francisco Bay area and charged with conspiracy to
manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 10 grams of
L D at the former missile base,

DEA OFFICIALS have said the lab had the potential to produce between 36
and 60 million dosage units of LSD with a street value ranging from $3 to $12 per
dosage unit.

Under cross-exami nation by Mark Bennett, defense attorney for Apperson, Sorrell
said the DEA investigation revealed the 26 cannisters were part of a 40-cannister
shipment (four boxes of, 10 cannisters each) picked up at Chicago and transported
to a former Atlas-F missile base at Carneiro, KS. (west of Salina) where the LSD lab
had been located.

Associates of Skinner (his father, Michael Hobbs and Gunnar Guinan) later
relocated the lab from the Carneiro to the Wamego missile base, Sorrell testified.
When DEA agents, acting on Skinner's information, inventoried the lab at Wamego
on October 3 1, 2000, only 13 of the 40 cannisters were found- 10 on a table at the
north end of a quonset hut and three in a refrigerator inside the underground
bunker, Sorrell said, adding that another cannister containing a small amount of ET
was among the items seized from the Ryder truck driven by Apperson the night of
the bust, November 6, 2000.

"Was there some concern on the part of investigators whether Skinner had been
totally truthful about the ET?' Bennett asked Sorrell.

"Yes, sir," Sorrell replied.

WHEN DEA agents learned of the missing ET cannisters, Skinner was
admonished and told to return them, Sorrell testified. Skinner sent Hobbs to
Manhattan to retrieve the cannisters, and Skinner later delivere

them to his case agent at San Francisco, DEA Special Agent Karl Nichols.

Under re-direct examination by Assistant U. S. Attorney Greg Hough, Sorrell
said it's not unusual for a government informant to be less than truthful with
authorities, adding that it's "extremely important" to corroborate information
received from an informant.

"How would you classify Skinner as to his reliability?" Hough asked.

"HE WAS a common informant with respect to this case," Sorrell replied . "We
were able to corroborate what he told us and consider him a reliable witness."

"Bottom line," Hough said. "If he (Skinner) hadn't made the other delivery (of
ET), would you have known where to go get it?"

"Absolutely not," Sorrell said.