Chemical waste from cooking drugs, carelessly discarded by Canberra's own Walter White, led the authorities to Stanley Hou's drug lab.
The chemicals were picked up by water testers, who triggered a six-month search for the source of the contamination that uncovered a commercial grade clandestine drug lab capable of producing $10-20 million of MDMA.
The discovery of the chemical traces ultimately cost Hou his freedom, his family home, and two investment properties.
The former financial planner will sit in a jail cell while the three properties - seized from the drug cook through the ACT's confiscation of criminal assets regime - go under the hammer in the coming months.
Court documents estimate the sale will fetch more than $1.35 million.
Police seized tonnes of highly volatile precursor chemicals, lab equipment worth about $200,000 on the black market, cash, and drugs in a bust that kept a potential 400kg of MDMA, or more than four million ecstasy pills, off Canberra's streets.
At the time, it was the largest seizure of MDMA in the ACT's history.
It was a mixture of luck and hard graft that led to the downfall of Canberra's own Walter White - the fictional drug cook made famous in hit series Breaking Bad.
Hou - who has degrees in finance and mathematics - had worked as a financial planner until 2013 when he resigned and leased the industrial unit in October the same year under a business registered to both himself and his wife, Mai Phuong Do.
He told the agent he intended to use to store woman's clothing which he sold online and had been seen bringing cloths into the unit. Hou worked undetected until, in February 2014, a contaminated water sample was discovered near Hume, sparking an investigation into a possible chemical spill.
Authorities kept testing the water and began door knocking Hume searching for the source.
On August 12, workers noticed a strange odour after opening a valve on Sheppard Street, near Hou's unit.
Business owners also reported the smell of chemicals and a trade waste officer noticed a strange residue on a window flyscreen at a nearby unit.
The waste officer door-knocked the unit, which was answered by Hou, before becoming suspicious and called in WorkSafe ACT and the police.
Police stopped Hou from leaving in his car, entered the unit and discovered the laboratory.
A raid on his home uncovered a 28-page manual on how to "cook" MDMA, steroids, receipts for the purchase of chemicals from 2007, and documents linked to the business used to rent the Hume unit.
A laptop also showed an internet search history with phrases including "how to grow MDMA crystals" and "lab supply".
Hou initially fought criminal charges, but switched his plea to guilty - during his ACT Supreme Court trial - to manufacturing MDMA, drug trafficking and possessing a large commercial quantity of a controlled precursor.
At sentence, Hou claimed he had cooked the drugs to fund his betting addiction and set up the lab to pay off more than $60,000 in debt owed to a bookie.
The court also heard Hou's father had been beaten to death in an unsolved murder suspected to be related to gambling debts.
In June last year, Acting Justice David Robinson sentenced Hou to four years jail, with a two-year non-parole period.
Hou will be eligible for release in February 2018.
Prosecutors appealed the sentence as being too lenient, but the Court of Appeal rejected the case.
Meanwhile, prosecutors had three properties, owned by Hou and his wife, restrained as criminal assets.
The proceeds from the commission of an offence can be seized and sold by the state
A police affidavit, filed as part of court proceedings to seize Hou assets, said officers suspect Hou and a woman matching his wife's description - who had been seen at the Hume industrial unit - had been manufacturing MDMA since 2007, and had made millions of dollars from their criminal activities.
The convicted drug cook attempted to fight the seizure on human rights grounds, arguing it was incompatible with their human rights, was an abuse of process, would arbitrarily interfere with their family and home, and would amount to double jeopardy.
Double jeopardy is the legal principal which provides that no one may be tried or punished again for an offence for which they have already been convicted or acquitted.
Defence lawyer, Michael Kukulies-Smith, argued Ms Do had bought one unit herself and was the sole owner, while the couple had purchased two other northside properties together.
Mr Kukulies-Smith said the properties had not been used in the offences and none of the money from the drug operation had been used in the acquisition, upkeep, or improvement of the properties.
But Associate Justice David Mossop ordered the three properties be auctioned, with the bank to be paid money owing on the mortgages and Hou's share of the equity to be paid to the territory.
The judge also ordered $159,000 of Ms Do's equity in the real estate be forfeited to the ACT.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Hau's wife had been seen near the drug lab. It has been updated to say a woman matching her description had been seen. Mai Phuong Do has not been charged over the matter and denies any knowledge of her husband's drug manufacturing.