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A Casper man pleaded no contest in Natrona County District Court on Tuesday to conspiring to operate a methamphetamine lab in his home.

James Darryl Emerson, 42, made the plea as part of a deal with prosecutors, who agreed to ask that he serve no more than three to five years in prison. Emerson, who also pleaded no contest to meth possession, has been in jail since his arrest in October, said Natrona County Assistant District Attorney Ken Marken.

The maximum penalty for the conspiracy charge is 25 years in prison.

Prosecutors dismissed two other charges that alleged Emerson possessed ephedrine and certain equipment with the intent to engage in a clandestine laboratory operation. An ingredient in some cold medications, ephedrine is commonly used in the making of methamphetamine.

Emerson's attorney, Don Tolin, did not return messages left Tuesday seeking comment.

Marken said witnesses at Emerson's home, on the 1100 block of Burlington Avenue, heard him discussing setting up a meth lab, including acquiring the material needed for the operation.

The case against Emerson grew out of a fraud investigation conducted by the Casper police department, said Sgt. Mark Trimble. A person involved in the fraud case told police about a possible meth lab at the Burlington Avenue home.

In October, Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agents served a search warrant at Emerson's home. They found plastic bags with a white powder, instructions for cooking methamphetamine and containers of chemicals commonly used to make the drug, according to an affidavit filed in Natrona County District Court.

On a stove in the home, authorities found a by-product of meth manufacturing, Marken said.

During their search, agents found Emerson hiding in an antique dryer in the basement of the home, the affidavit stated. In a subsequent interview with authorities, he said he had no idea there was a meth lab in his home.

Emerson remains held at Natrona County Detention Center in lieu of $20,000 bond. His sentencing hearing hasn't yet been scheduled.

Reach Joshua Wolfson at (307) 266-0582 or at josh.wolfson@trib.com.

NewsTracker

Last we knew: A fraud investigation led authorities to uncover a suspected methamphetamine lab in a Casper home.

The latest: James Darryl Emerson, who lived in the home, pleaded no contest to conspiring to operate a methamphetamine lab.

What's next: Emerson's scheduling hearing hasn't been set.

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