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DEA Announces Arrests and Investigation
into Sale of Psychoactive Research Chemicals to the Public
by Erowid
Oct 2006 updated (orig published Jul 22, 2004)
On July 22, 2004, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) published an announcement on its website describing legal actions taken against five research chemical vendors in the United States. According to the DEA announcement, the arrests are the result of a multi-state investigation of research chemical companies following two deaths and several hospitalizations of individuals who had ingested research chemicals purchased online.

According to emails Erowid has received in the past two weeks, other vendors have been the subject of investigation as well. Some customers who had ordered products from research chemical vendors were contacted and threatened with prosecution if they did not cooperate with the investigation.

The vendors being investigated by the DEA are not accused of selling controlled substances, but some of the chemicals being sold could be considered controlled substance Analogues under federal law if intended for human consumption. Over the past several years, the psychoactive research chemical market has grown to the point that many of the vendors have been advertising on major search engines and their advertisements have appeared on the websites of major newspapers ("Constant Commerce", Erowid Extracts 6, June 2004).

The DEA also announced a handful of medical cases associated with the ingestion of the chemicals sold by these companies. We hope the DEA will work with physicians and public health researchers to publish any available information about these cases. Erowid receives notifications from users and medical personnel about hospitalizations related to psychoactive research chemical ingestion, but because of concerns about confidentiality and fear of legal repercussions, most reports do not include enough information to allow for verification or follow-up.


When the DEA first seized a couple of the sites they accuse of illegally selling psychoactive chemicals to the public, they replaced the websites, such as Omega Fine Chemicals, with the following notice:
"By application of the United Sates Drug Enforcement Administration, the website you are attempting to visit has been forfeited by the Unitest States Disctrict court for the Southern District of California, San Deigo Division, pursuant to Title 21 United States Code, Section 853(a)(2). The owner of this website has been indicted for violating Title 21 United States Code, Section 841(a)(1) - Distribution of a controlled substance analogues." -- Screenshot of site seizure notice -- Thanks to DMcG.

DEA Announcement of Research Chemical Arrests #


News Release [Original]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 22, 2004

DEA ANNOUNCES ARRESTS OF WEBSITE
OPERATORS SELLING ILLEGAL DESIGNER DRUGS

WASHINGTON, DC - DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy today announced the culmination of "Operation Web Tryp" that resulted in ten arrests and targeted five websites. Operation Web Tryp investigated Internet websites distributing highly dangerous designer drug analogues under the guise of "research chemicals" primarily shipped to the U.S. from China and India. These websites are known to have thousands of customers worldwide. One website operator is known to conduct estimated sales of $20,000 per week, while another is known to have been in business for more than five years. These websites sold substances that led to the fatal overdose of at least two individuals and 14 non-fatal overdoses.

"The Internet has become the street corner for many drug users and traffickers. Drug pushers who use the Internet will find themselves out of business and behind bars," Administrator Tandy said. "These dealers now enter into the privacy of our own homes to entice and sell destruction to our children veiled under the illusion of being safe and legal. The formulation of analogues is like a drug dealer's magic trick meant to fool law enforcement. They didn't fool us and we must educate our children so they are not fooled either. Today's action will help prevent future deaths and overdoses, and will serve as notice for those dealing in designer drugs and the illegal use of the Internet."

ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS
This operation resulted in the following website operators arrests on July 21, 2004:

  • WWW.RACRESEARCH.COM and WWW.DUNCANLABPRODUCTS.COM
    April Curtis and Doug Thompson, website operators of WWW.RACRESEARCH.COM, were arrestedJuly 21 2004, in Arizona and Georgia, respectively. The arrests are based on charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substance analogues out of the Southern District of New York. WWW.RACRESEARCH.COM has so far been linked to non-fatal overdoses of two college students. This investigation by DEA New York and the New York Police Department also uncovered the illegal distribution of designer drugs on WWW.DUNCANLABPRODUCTS.COM . This site was operated by Raymond Duncan and supplied by April Curtis. Duncan was arrested July 21 2004, in California based on charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substance analogues. Both websites were voluntarily terminated.

      April Curtis
    • Mar 24, 2005 : Pled guilty to "Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substance Analogues intended for human consumption".
    • Aug 2, 2005 : Sentenced to 37 months jail time.
    • Jun 7, 2007 : Released from custody into halfway house.
    • Dec 3, 2007 : Began standard probation (left halfway house)
    • Dec 12, 2008 : Filed for early termination of probation.

    Duncan Labs : Plead to 2 years in prison + 3 years probation. "CONSPIRACY TO DISTRIBUTE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE (CONSPIRACY TO DISTRIBUTE AND POSSESS WITH INTENT TO DISTRIBUTE A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE) : (1) Imprisonment for a total term of Twenty-Four Months. Supervised Release for a term of Three Years." (Pacer)

  • WWW.PONDMAN.NU
    David William Linder, website operator of WWW.PONDMAN.NU was arrested July 21, 2004. This investigation was conducted by DEA and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in Norfolk, VA. The above site, which purportedly sold landscape supplies, also sold designer drugs. Linder supplied these drugs to U.S.-based Navy personnel who later held rave-style parties to facilitate further distribution. To date, an overdose death of an 18-year-old male and three non-fatal overdoses causing serious bodily injuries have been linked to WWW.PONDMAN.NU. Linder is charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substance analogues out of the Eastern District of Virginia. This website will be voluntarily terminated.

    According to the Virginian-Pilot, David Linder was convicted of 27 counts, "including drug conspiracy and money laundering" and sentenced to life in prison. Strangely, the Virginia-Pilot reports his attorney as saying several things that call his fitness as Linder's defense attorney into question:
    Linder's lawyer, Charles Burke, said that although his client will spend the rest of his life in prison, barring a successful appeal, the DEA probably saved his life by arresting him. "Linder lived in the Arizona desert strung out on drugs and alcohol", Burke said. "He never would have survived out there."

  • WWW.AMERICANCHEMICALSUPPLY.COM
    DEA Baton Rouge, LA initiated this investigation that resulted in July 21, 2004's arrest of Michael James Burton, operator of WWW.AMERICANCHEMICALSUPPLY.COM. Charges against Burton and an unidentified coconspirator include illegal distribution with enhanced penalties for causing death, aiding and abetting, and forfeiture out of the Middle District of Louisiana. A restraining order will be issued to prevent use of this website.

      Michael James Burton
    • Jul 14, 2004 : Arrest warrent issued.
    • Jul 14, 2004 : Indicted
    • Mar 21, 2005 : pled guilty to "distribution and possession with intent to distribute Controlled Substance Analogs which resulted in the death of James Downs.", in return for which the remaining charges were dropped.
      -- "The indictment alleged that Burton was the operator of the Internet website WWW.AMERICANCHEMICALSUPPLY.COM and further charged that James Edwards Downs, age 22, a resident of St. Francisville, Louisiana, died as a result of using 2C-T-21, one of the chemicals allegedly distributed to him by Burton." On October 28, 2005 Burton was sentenced to 160 months imprisonment and three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution. (See DEA press release about sentencing).
      -- Also ordered to pay $16,000 in restitution to the family of James Downs.
    • Oct 28, 2005 : Began sentence (??)

    • WWW.OMEGAFINECHEMICALS.COM
      July 21, 2004, DEA San Diego arrested Thomas Kasper, Joseph Kasper, Beth Badrak, and Elaine Villalobos, all California residents, on conspiracy charges to distribute controlled substance analogues, distribution of controlled substance analogues to individuals under the age of 21, and money laundering out of the Southern District of California. These four operated WWW.OMEGAFINECHEMICALS.COM. In addition to the arrests, DEA used warrants to search the Omega Business address, and the residence of Beth Badrak and Tom Kasper in Santa Barbara, CA. A seizure warrant will be served on the Omega website. Two bank accounts were also seized.

        Thomas Kasper
      • Jul 16, 2004 : Indicted on 10 counts related to the distribution of controlled substance analogues.
      • May 21, 2007 : Pled guilty to one count of "Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substance Analogues". Sentenced to 30 months jail time + 3 years probation.
      • Jun 26, 2007 : Filed motion requesting the return of government seized property, including chemicals such as 2-aminoindan, 2C-I, 4-Aco-MIPT, and 5-MeO-DMT.
      • Aug 2007 : Scheduled to begin sentence, but self-surrender date delayed because the "substantial post plea work" required of Kasper had not yet been completed. Self-surrender date was delayed again on Nov 9, 2007.
      • Dec 12, 2007 : Began prison sentence.
      • Jan 15, 2008 : Sentence amended to 21 months jail time + 3 years probation

    BACKGROUND ON DESIGNER DRUGS FROM OPERATION WEB TRYP
    The products sold by the above mentioned websites are synthetic substances chemically identified as tryptamines, piperazines, and phenylethylamines. Some of these substances are specifically restricted under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) while others, when intended for human consumption, are controlled under the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act (CSAEA). Prior to the CSAEA, chemists would cause slight changes in the molecular structure of a controlled substance to circumvent the CSA. The CSAEA was enacted to arm law enforcement with the tools needed to stay one step ahead of the drug dealers' innovations. On the street and in Internet chat rooms these substances go by innocuous names such as "Foxy Methoxy" and "DIPT." Many young people are led to believe that these substances are a form of "legal" Ecstasy or LSD because they produce similar hallucinogenic effects. Adolescents and young adults are primary abusers of these chemicals. Many have the false impression that they are not as harmful or addictive as mainstream drugs such as heroin or cocaine. This is a highly dangerous emerging drug trend. Because the recommended dosages can vary by as little as a milligram, any slight miscalculation can cause fatal results.

    OVERDOSE VICTIMS
    In April 2002, an 18-year-old male in Hancock, New York died after consuming a chemical obtained from WWW.PONDMAN.NU. A 19-year-old male friend of the decedent later confirmed using similar chemicals obtained from WWW.PONDMAN.NU that resulted in him suffering from seizures, floating spots in his vision, memory lapses, uncontrollable teeth grinding and large lumps that would appear and disappear periodically on his face and neck.

    [Erowid Note: The DEA removed the following paragraph from their press release in mid August, 2004 after the "victim" called the DEA several times to complain that they had mis-represented his experience and he did not suffer from lasting problems.]

    In December 2003, police responded to a call of a college student found unconscious, unresponsive and turning blue on the kitchen floor of a residence in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. He had been lying on the floor for 45 minutes before a call for help was made. This student was suffering from the ingestion of a substance he obtained from WWW.RACRESEARCH.COM. This overdose victim now suffers from chronic, violent seizures.[Erowid Note: We received a first-hand report from someone describing a very similar experience in December 2003, described in the Experiences Vault and were contacted again after the DEA published this report saying that this report described the same person and the "overdose victim" suffers no chronic ill effects from the experience.]

    In March 2004, a 22-year-old male resident of St. Francisville, Louisiana died after ingesting a substance he believed to be similar to Ecstasy. When found by his mother he asked to be driven to the hospital where he died three days later. His body temperature had reached an astounding 108 degrees. It was later found that the substance used was sent from WWW.AMERICANCHEMICALSUPPLY.COM, one of the targeted websites in this investigation.

    These website operators attempted to give an appearance of legitimacy to their websites by presumably selling these chemicals to bona fide researchers; however, a review of customer lists revealed purchasers with e-mail addresses such as acidtripo420@; ecstasylight@; madtriper17@; moontripperdipt@; partys_with_glow_sticks@; professor@; psychedelic_stoner@; and ravergirlny@.

    SPECIAL THANKS AND RECOGNITION
    These enforcement actions demonstrate the DEA's steadfast commitment to identifying and preventing any illegal drug distribution through the use of the Internet. The success of this operation could not have taken place without the cooperation and coordination of the following:

    DEA and US Attorney's Office, Albuquerque, NM
    DEA and US Attorney's Office, Baton Rouge, LA
    DEA, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Ward County Narcotics Task Force, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations, and US Attorney's Office, North Dakota
    Food and Drug Administration and US Postal Inspection Service, Minnesota
    DEA, New York Police Department and US Attorney's Office, New York, NY
    DEA, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and US Attorney's Office, Norfolk, VA
    DEA, Food and Drug Administration, US Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service, and US Attorney's Office, San Diego, CA
    Federal Bureau of Investigation, Santa Maria, CA
    US Forestry Service and Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office, Santa Barbara, CA
    DEA, Las Vegas, NV
    DEA, Riverside, CA
    DEA, Phoenix, AZ
    DEA, Macon, GA