A former Los Angeles Police Department officer whose garage explosion revealed a makeshift lab where he used butane to extract hashish oil from marijuana plants was sentenced Tuesday to five years in federal prison.
Joseph Jay Spadafore, 64, of Menifee was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John F. Walter for his conviction on charges of maintaining drug-involved premises, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
During trial in March, a Los Angeles federal jury heard evidence that Spadafore, who was an LAPD officer from 1976 to 1991, converted a house into a drug lab where he extracted hashish oil containing THC from marijuana plants using a dangerous process involving butane, a highly flammable gas.
A Los Angeles fire captain testified about receiving 911 calls from neighbors reporting a loud explosion just before midnight last Nov. 3. Spadafore himself also called 911 from the home in Lake Elsinore.
At the time of the explosion and subsequent fire, Spadafore was the only person living at the house, which the homeowner believed had been rented to a different man. When firefighters arrived to combat the blaze, the entire garage was engulfed in flames and Spadafore was the only person present.
When the house was swept for additional occupants, authorities discovered potentially hazardous lab equipment and chemicals in almost every room. Law enforcement subsequently seized at least 22 propane tanks in the garage, dozens of soda kegs and other large containers filled with extracted THC, jars of THC powder, butane and trash bags filled with marijuana.
In total, almost 30 liters of hashish oil containing THC was scattered in virtually every room of the house, which had been converted almost entirely into a drug lab, authorities testified.
Top news of the day
The jury heard testimony that the only room in the home that appeared occupied was the master bedroom, which was filled with Spadafore's mail and personal belongings, including two firearms. One firearm was loaded and found beneath the defendant's pillow, according to prosecutors.
At sentencing, Walter rejected Spadafore's argument that he was simply "crashing" at the house, finding that the defendant was involved in the manufacture of hashish oil at the house and possessed the two firearms to protect himself and the drugs, which were valued at between $300,000 and $500,000.
Among the factors the judge cited as influencing his sentence were Spadafore's lack of any acceptance of responsibility or remorse for failing to warn first responders about the dangerous quantities of butane and propane inside the home and garage before they entered to conduct a safety sweep, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.