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Two indicted in separate Ecstasy distribution cases

Federal authorities in Memphis said Tuesday they have indicted two people in separate cases involving the distribution of Ecstasy, including a Dutch woman arrested at the airport with almost 7 pounds of the popular club drug.

The two indictments are among six by a federal grand jury here in the past six months against Ecstasy distributors, an indication of the drug's growing presence in Memphis, a federal prosecutor said.

Both defendants, James Vandergriff of Memphis and Dorothy Ingrid Leijen of Amsterdam, are scheduled to be arraigned today before U.S. Magistrate J. Daniel Breen.

Their hearings come as police identified Kristy C. Mullins of Corinth, Miss., and Joshua Edward Robbins of Cordova as the teenagers who died this week after taking what they believed was Ecstasy. Both were 17.

According to a police report, Mullins and three friends from Corinth bought six Ecstasy pills for $180 at a Midtown nightclub Saturday night.

The friends told police they intended to take the pills and smoke marijuana they had purchased in Corinth, the police report said.

Two hours after taking the pills, Mullins, a junior at Alcorn Central High School, began vomiting and bleeding and foaming from her mouth and nose. Her friends took her to Magnolia Hospital near Corinth. She was then airlifted to the Regional Medical Center at Memphis where she died shortly before 1 p.m. Sunday.

Less than 24 hours later, Robbins died in the emergency room of Saint Francis Hospital, also after taking Ecstasy.

Police offered few details about where Robbins got the drug or when he took it.

Investigators were awaiting toxicology reports on both teenagers to determine what killed them and if the pills were contaminated.

Mullins and her three friends went to a club identified in a police report as the Back Street Club, at 2108 Court.

At the club, Mullins's friend told police he met a man he knew only as Gregory. He said he had known Gregory about four months and had bought Ecstasy from him before.

Although Robbins and Mullins didn't know each other, police said Monday they may both have gotten a bad batch of Ecstasy.

First manufactured in 1912, Ecstasy is the common name for a synthetic drug made from ingredients that vary widely. In the past decade, Ecstasy has become a popular drug associated with the weekend nightclub scene. It usually is a colored tablet, often stamped with a logo or image.

Ecstasy heightens sensitivity to light and sound and stimulates pleasant feelings. But it can also cause a variety of dangers, ranging from dehydration to heart or kidney failure.

Because it is a synthetic drug, it can also be contaminated with toxic substances.

Asst. U.S. Atty. Stuart Canale, the prosecutor who handles federal drug cases for West Tennessee, said much of the Ecstasy in the Memphis area is believed to come from Europe, specifically Amsterdam.

Last week, Leijen was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly boarding a flight March 22 in Amsterdam, where she lives, and flying directly to Memphis with 3.1 kilograms of Ecstasy. At 2.2 pounds per kilogram, that's almost seven pounds, amounting to thousands of pills.

Leijen was allegedly carrying the drug on her when a customs agent at Memphis International Airport noticed something suspicious and called for a search.

It's not an isolated case, Canale said.

"We have had several cases where it's been intercepted before it actually ever hit the street. So we can show that the connection came directly from Amsterdam," he said.

The same day that Leijen was indicted, the grand jury indicted Vandergriff for possession with intent to distribute Ecstasy. He's accused of trying to sell 100 pills to an undercover federal agent in January.

If convicted, Leijen and Vandergriff each face up to 20 years in prison.

Both remained in federal custody Wednesday.

Canale said the amount of Ecstasy coming into Memphis parallels the increasing popularity of the drug, often taken in combination with other drugs, such as marijuana and cocaine.

Canale is preparing for laws that will go into effect in May that will increase the federal penalties for distributing Ecstasy.

The sentence will still depend on the amount involved. But instead of basing the sentence on weight standards related to marijuana, the new guidelines will make the penalty for dealing Ecstasy "more in line with powder cocaine" sentences.

State sentences are also going up in July. Dealing 100 grams or more of Ecstasy will bring a sentence of 15 to 60 years instead of 8 to 30 years.

- Bill Dries: 529-2643

- Yolanda Jones: 529-2380