Pekin police and Tazewell County deputies this week arrested the alleged leaders of two apparently separate meth-making conspiracies.


Lengthy investigations produced charges in court Friday that could send Laurence Clevenger of Pekin to prison for up to 60 years and Gary Nelson of Hopedale for up to 40, their prosecutor told a judge.


Pekin police said five more people also were arrested in Nelson’s case. Two of them were formally charged last week.


Clevenger, 42, acknowledged he was making batches of meth for the past several months in his rental home at 625 West Shore Drive when police arrested him there Wednesday, according to a prosecutor’s court affidavit.


An Operation Copperhead investigation by the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Department and Pekin police, meanwhile, climaxed Wednesday with the arrest of Nelson, 50, at his home at 801 Elm St. in Hopedale.


Clevenger was charged Friday with aggravated participation in meth manufacturing. A previous burglary conviction doubles the maximum 30-year term for that Class X felony, a judge heard before setting his bond at $100,000.


Nelson was charged with conspiracy to commit unlawful possession of pseudoephedrine or PSE, the key ingredient to make meth that’s available in limited sales of certain over-the-counter cold medicines.


He could be charged with a second Class X felony soon, a prosecutor told the judge who set Nelson’s bond at $75,000. Both men will next appear in court on March 12.


Also charged in connection to Nelson were Milton Risinger, 44, and Timothy Shinn, 31, both of Hopedale. They face prosecution for possessing PSE for meth-making purposes.


Pekin police said Brandon Cremeens, 31, and Diana Nelson, age not available, both of Hopedale, and William Brown, age not available, of Armington, also were arrested in that case. No charges, however, were filed against them by Friday.


Informants told investigators that Gary Nelson had been steadily buying PSE for meth making since last April and had been soliciting others to do the same, according to a prosecutor’s court affidavit.


After his arrest Nelson acknowledged that conspiracy, the affidavit stated, and said he had been providing Risinger with PSE that he and others had bought.


He said Risinger took the supplies to meth makers in Manito and the nearby Goofy Ridge area, but sources said Nelson also manufactured the highly addictive drug, the affidavit stated.


In Clevenger’s case, a city police raid revealed chemicals, tubing, batteries, empty PSE pill packages, other items and 11 “one-pot cooking vessels” that contained apparent meth “product” still inside them, a prosecutor’s affidavit stated. A strong chemical odor permeated the house.


Clevenger acknowledged he’d been “cooking” meth about one time each week for the past several months, each time producing about 1 1/2 grams of the drug, the affidavit stated.


He said he’d also solicited others to buy PSE for him, but no one else has been charged yet in connection with his case.


Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin