LEWISTON — An Auburn man pleaded not guilty Friday to operating a methamphetamine lab in connection with a Mechanic Falls drug bust in June.

James Ludlow, 41, of 46 East Bates St. appeared on the Unified Criminal Docket at 8th District Court to answer an indictment handed up Wednesday by an Androscoggin County grand jury.

Ludlow was charged with aggravated operation of a methamphetamine laboratory, a Class A felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

At his arraignment Friday, Ludlow denied the charge. His bail remained at $50,000 cash.

He is expected back in court next month and could go to trial as soon as November.

Drug agents said in court papers that they tracked purchases of pseudoephedrine by Ludlow and his girlfriend, Kimberly Lothrop, 25, of 292 Blue Road, Monmouth, and concluded they may have been involved in meth manufacturing. Ludlow had a history of convictions in meth operations, according to court papers.

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It was Lothrop’s car, driven by Ludlow, that agents had followed into the woods in Mechanic Falls on June 17, according to prosecutors. Lothrop and Ludlow were arrested and charged.

A third defendant in the case, Daniel Kelly, 45, of 640 Pigeon Hill Road, Mechanic Falls, pleaded guilty last month to a charge of operating a meth lab. He was expected to be released from jail after serving two months of a two and a half year sentence.

A judge had imposed a 30-month sentence but suspended all of that time except for the 62 days Kelly had spent at the Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn.

Kelly had been present in the wooded area in Mechanic Falls where drug agents discovered meth-making materials in the trunk of Lothrop’s car. Kelly’s attorney had said he was merely an accomplice and hadn’t been directly involved in the making of meth. Kelly told agents he had bought for Ludlow the drug pseudoephedrine, a critical ingredient in the making of meth.

Methamphetamine is an extremely addictive stimulant. Preparing the drug is considered dangerous because the chemicals can create fumes and there is a risk of fire or explosion, according to authorities.

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