The discovery of what police said was a portable meth lab in a third-floor hotel room of the Hampton Inn at 1301 Race Street in Center City prompted the evacuation of nearly 400 guests early Saturday morning.
Authorities responded to a fire alarm around 5:30 a.m. after hotel staff reported seeing fumes coming from room #322, which surveillance footage revealed was rented by two men Friday night. The men were allegedly using the suite as a makeshift den to cook crystal meth, a process that can cause explosions and toxic air emissions and often leaves behind hazardous – sometimes poisonous – residue.
After finding chemicals in the room, investigators declared it a Hazmat situation, prompting Homeland Security and the Bomb Squad to respond. Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan of Homeland Security determined the setup to be a meth lab and turned the investigation over to the Narcotics Unit.
Narcotics investigators and lab technicians confiscated samples of various chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, 1012 grams of finished meth with an estimated street value of $70,840 and paraphernalia including funnels, containers and grinding equipment.
Guests were displaced for about two hours until the air inside the hotel was tested and deemed safe. All occupants were then allowed back inside, save those staying on the third floor, which will remain partially evacuated until specialized crews from a contracted cleanup division called Clean Venture finish clearing the property of the often-dangerous chemical cocktail left behind.
After police obtained warrants to comb through his residence and perform a "safe search" of the hotel room, Matthew Phillip Sinson, 27, of the 300 block of North 12th Street in Center City, was arrested and charged with possession of narcotics with the intent to distribute or deliver and with the intent to manufacture, as well as causing a catastrophe, possession of paraphernalia, possession of an instrument of crime and reckless endangerment.
A judge today issued a nebbia order during Sinson's arraignment, meaning that his bail can't be posted unless those paying it show documented proof that the money comes from a legitimate source.
Police are still trying to identify the second man seen renting the room on hotel surveillance footage.