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December 29, 2002 at 12:38 am #674862Anonymous
Authorities say a secret underground lab buried in a mountainside near Allentown, PA was capable of producing million-tablet batches of the illegal club drug Ecstasy. Attorney General Mike Fisher displayed photographs of the sophisticated bunker yesterday at a news conference in Allentown, about 25 miles from the hillside where it was discovered.
The lab had become a major source of the hallucinogen on the East Coast before it was raided this month, Fisher said.
Prosecutors said a Bangor engineer, Duane Michael Policelli, built the lab inside two giant metal tanks, buried beneath a long driveway leading to a hillside home that he dubbed “The Citadel.”
Concealed beneath boulders and behind a hidden door, the lab had electricity and plumbing, a press for making pills, automated machinery, and sinks where raw materials were converted into drugs, state narcotics agents said.
“We believe he was supplying up and down the East Coast,” Fisher spokesman Kevin Harley said. “If he needed to fill an order for a million pills or tablets, we believe that, based on the amount of chemicals found and the equipment he had, he could easily fill that order.”
Policelli, 51, was arrested Dec. 12. Investigators said he had been making the drug for at least two years.
Reached at his Easton office yesterday, Policelli’s lawyer, Brian Monahan, declined to speak about the case. He has previously said that his client, who is free on $100,000 bail, regretted any embarrassment he caused his family.
Authorities said Policelli had been storing chemicals for processing into Ecstasy at a defunct garment factory in Roseto. Last year, Policelli applied for a zoning variance, seeking permission to use the plant to make fruit drinks.
Ecstasy got its start in urban dance clubs and raves in the 1990s but has since spread to middle America. Once almost exclusively imported from Europe, the pills are increasingly being made in clandestine labs throughout the United States, drug enforcement agents said.
Police raided a lab near San Diego in October 2001 that they said was capable of making between 1 million and 1.5 million tabs of Ecstasy a month. At the time, authorities called it one of the largest labs ever found in the United States.
Agents shut down a lab in Connecticut earlier this year that they said had been producing Ecstasy pills stamped with the logos of this year’s Super Bowl teams, the New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams.
Other alleged Ecstasy labs have been busted during the last two years in Louisiana, North Carolina, Virginia and Michigan.
Ecstasy is the street name for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, a synthetic stimulant and hallucinogen.
Posted on Thu, Dec. 19, 2002December 29, 2002 at 5:04 pm #708629Anonymous
Holy shit. Thats a lot of ecstasy pills and a lot of jail time. Bye bye Mr. Scientist!December 30, 2002 at 4:16 pm #708630Anonymous
Unfortunately for them, those involved will get very hefty sentences for this. What a thought. Being made to languish in prison for all that time with little or no means of spending your time productively. I know you’ve heard this rant from me before, but producers caught in Holland would probably only serve a year, maybe two. Sensibly enough in my opinion, the Dutch don’t believe in heavy handed sentencing. To them it’s a waste of money and a productive human being’s contribution to society to condemn someone to a long sentence. What more they’re always keen to understand the causes of crime and a guilty person’s motives.
For anyone who may be interested, here’s a good piece on the USA’s answers to crime…December 30, 2002 at 5:01 pm #708631Anonymous
I know first-hand how heavy handed the USA is. Not only is it fact that the US locks up more of its citizens than any other country in the world; there are also prisons being built ALL the time to alleviate overcrowding. They are so overcrowded w/ ppl who committed non-violent crimes that 2 towns (dont remember where) have had 2 release all but the most dangerous criminals from jail.
One of my good fiends is currently in prison. He was set up w/ an illegal wiretap (police used the overheard info to ‘head him off at the pass’ & search his car in a parking lot he pulled into.) They also put a trace on his cell phone & have tried 2 say that he had sold pills in more than 5 places in North Carolina that day. He HAD been that many places, but he had to pick up a part for his brothers motorcycle, visit a friend in college, etc.
He was arrested w/ 800 pills in the parking lot he pulled into. The cops tried 2 say there that they searched him b/c he ‘looked suspicious’. When in fact they had been tracking his movements all day long. He had checked into a hotel before he went 2 the parking lot across town. The police also obtained a search warrant for his room (which they knew about not b/c of his own admission, but b/c his movements had been tracked.) and found 200 more pills there.
He will be in jail for 7 yrs. In a prison where he has not seen the sky for over a yr. & 6 mons. Not even windows.
The wiretaps used on my friend were BEFORE Sept. 11 when Bush extended wiretapping priveleges. Which means the taps were illegal.
One day, I was sitting in Chemistry class when my vice principal came & got me. We walked 2 parking lot where police, drug dogs were. we walked 2 my car. They told me the dog had alerted @ my car. they took dog around my car. he sniffed. The handler threw a ball, the dog about broke his neck going after it b/c he was on a leash. (no barking, no scratching, nothing).
They said ‘will u unlock your car’? I knew there was nothing in there, so I did. They (3 men) started searching in my front floorbaords w/ combs & magnifying glasses. They worked their way like this thru my car all the way into the trunk. They opened every folded piece of papaer, looked in every carck, hinge, & crevice. 30 minutes later, theyve found nothing w/ combs & magnifying glasses. THEN, another man walks over 2 my car. & with his naked eye, 6 ft above the front passenger floorboard, he says ‘aha!’, leans over, & ‘picks up something.’
The something was a seed. (which I think was in his pocket). He dropped it in a vial & the liquid turned purple. He said that means THC is present. I said ‘there isnt any THC in seeds’ (which is true- thats why ppl dont smoke them) Their only piece of ‘evidence’ was destroyed when he tested it.
I was suspended, kicked off student council, etc. I went 2 court. for a seed. The judge read the report aloud…. & said that a ‘small plastic baggie containing marijuana particles’ had been found in my car. …. I tried to object- the judge said if I opened my mouth out of turn again, he would charge me w/ contempt.
My vice principal was seated behind me in the courtroom. I turned 2 him b/c he had been there @ my car when it all happened.
He didnt say shit. He just looked @ the judge.
I lost my drivers license for 6 months. I was put on probation. drug tests. narcotics anonymous. I lost a 3 yr modeling contract (in Charlotte, NC)(I lived in SC) I had JUST signed b/c I couldnt travel out-of-state to do assignments. I was late to school for the rest of the year b/c I had 2 depend on ‘friends’ for rides. Of course, I received write-ups for every tardy even though I wasnt the one controlled what time I arrived. I was harassed. searched. questioned almost daily. My GPA dropped 2 1/2 points. I did not get into the college I wanted to .. & Have STILL not.
Yes, I know what a tangled web the ‘law’ weaves.
to this day, When cops run my tag # or pull up my driving record, it says that I once lost license b/c of marijuana possession. I am questioned. even searched. for something that everyone told me would ‘disappear’ b/c I was minor when it happened.December 30, 2002 at 5:35 pm #708632Anonymous
What a terrible story. I’m dumstruck. In fact I’m so appaled that the only question that comes to mind is, why continue to live either in a state or a country which treats people so badly?December 30, 2002 at 11:50 pm #708633Anonymous
I grew up thinking I lived in the land of the free.
I thought u were ‘innocent til proven guilty’.
I used 2 be proud 2 be American.January 2, 2003 at 12:57 am #708655
That is fucked up:mad: I would be inclined to try and seek compensation (with a very good lawyer) but its probably pointless.
You can loose your license for smooking?
I knew a guy who got caught drunk In charge and only got a ban from freetime driving as he needed the car for work, This is fucked up that you lost your driving license for something that even if it were true would not effect your driving.
Move to Canada;)January 2, 2003 at 2:49 am #708634Anonymous
any drug possession here results in loss of license for 6 months. (if you lose it 3 times, u never get it back)
I could have applied for ‘provisional’ license but here u cant drive to a school or out of state. (the only 2 places I NEEDED to go- to school & to NORTH Carolina…I live in S.C.)
Im sure its pointless at this point. Theres not much sense in my having gotten upset a couple days ago & posting it all.
anyway, I just have to move on.January 4, 2003 at 4:34 pm #708657General LightingModerator
its slightly less fucked up here in the UK. Unfortunately the scientist would still have got at least 10 years (and probably done all that time); and dealers get heavy time (although the sad thing is a dealer of heroin who was violent would probably get less time (about 5-7 years) than the scientist who didn’t mean to hurt anybody, and would get parole.
Big governments don’t like criminals with brains. They are dangerous.
However, small posession usually results in a caution or a small fine. If you get a caution (and it is just posession and you haven’t done any other crime like being abusive or agressive on drugs or stole stuff to get your drugs money) all that happens is that you stay in the cells for a bit (as little as 2 hours sometimes!); the custody sergeant gives you this lecture which is a bit like the South Park counsellor (drugs are bad m’kay ) and then lets you go saying “now don’t get caught with drugs again!” your name doesn’t even get shown in the local paper.
In Britain, even the cops realise that arresting people just for small amounts of drugs isn’t worth the hassle. People only get nicked for drugs now if they have been doing other crime and drugs are found on them, or if straighheads grass them up.
It has been known for British bobbies, on seeing weed being dealt in the street to to say:
now why don’t you lads just do that at home, rather than in the street? If you do it in the street some old lady might see you and dial 999 (like 911 in UK) and then I might have to nick you!
Now just be on your way, and if I don’t see you sat on that bench with that spliff when I come back in 10 minutes there won’t need to be any trouble!
Cannabis posession is now no longer arrestable in the UK. Actually I get the impression a lot of those in power in Britain would like to fully decriminalise drugs; but what holds them back is unfortunately the “special relationship” with Dubya, c/o USA Global Enterprises Inc.
In other words, the same bunch of narrow minded rednecks who hold you Americans back from true freedom would cause us trouble as well. I don’t think we would go to war between US and Europe (but you never know) but there would be economic sanctions, and US companies withdrawing investment to provoke a recession.
As not everyone in Britain is supportive of decriminalisation (the right wing press have really complained that cannabis is not classed as “an evil drug”), this could even result in internal civil disturbances within our country, if the antis think “druggies fucked up the British economy!”
The “war on drugs” appears to be merging with the “war on trrrrsm” too, but and is still very active in Britain. It looks like our side may be winning battles, but the really sad part of it is that we are often fighting our own people, our own parents, teachers, business owners who believe prohibitionist rhetoric…..January 4, 2003 at 6:51 pm #708635Anonymous
I think its now pretty apparent that the one-world government is in its infancy.
Its not that the US is swaying the UK, or even vice versa like some ppl think.
The same mysterious rich powerful group of ppl are pulling the strings of the world. The Illuminati.
….. dont ask me what this really has 2 do w/ strange ways of handling drug offenders…… it came 2 mind while reading the last post about George W. & his effect on UK cannabis poss. policy.
Interesting: it was George Sr. who came up w/ the idea to import drugs into the US via plane, fishing vessel, etc w/out going thru checkpoints…. this was to make money for covert ops to further the one-world movement.
The Bush family is still currently THE largest shareholder of the chemical used to cut cocaine to prepare it for sale on the street….
…….. call me crazyJanuary 4, 2003 at 7:50 pm #708658General LightingModerator
Lady luck – you are quite right, except I would substitute the word “corporation” for government. The elected Government of any sovereign country is these days becoming increasingly powerless in the wake of the tremendous influence wielded by large transnational corporations.
And it would be the corporations and their lackeys who would be the ones to protest the most at any nation which legalised drug use – “it would impact worker productivity and have a negative effect on shareholder value and overall equity”.
I understand what you mean by illuminati – and have read or been told a lot about this; but I find these days analysis of these “shadowy élites” has its dangers.
Consider just how these “élites” came to be in power (apart from just having wars etc) – and that the term “illuminati” means “enlightened”.
They got where they were because within themselves they had unity, ambition and organisation to carry out their plans and increase their power base. I’m not saying what they did or do is at all good – far from it (they are using their skills to evil ends which could result in the complete destruction of our world, either through war or environmental degradation!)
But there is a temptation when reading too much about “babylon” to become very despondent and feel “there is fuck all we can do”.
Yet we can be as powerful as them – if we stay united, organise ourselves, and are true to each other.
I often feel that sometimes people are “downtrodden” because they let themselves get that way – and although our party culture is fun we must be careful it does not become destructive to ourselves. Now why does the “anti-drugs” Bush family allow coke to be trafficked? Consider the affect it has on inner city communities on both sides of the pond – think about it, how better to stop people seeing the shit they are in than by keeping them drugged and stupid.
We were talking yesterday about crack, and how it is fucking up a lot of party scenes in Britain – and that unfortunately the nihilistic culture of “the Man has always got control” may be one reason why people do the stuff as they feel they cannot otherwise fight back!
But you can of course be drugged and smart 😉 Rather than run away I try and use high states to find out information from people and other sources – to keep learning at all times.
I was forced to leave college in 1992 for hacking the Internet (at that time it was a disciplinary offence to use it!). The UK can be almost as draconian as America when it tries.
Everything I have learnt about computers, music, technology has actually come from the underground rave scene and from squatter friends – from buildign up rigs, ressurecting discarded equipment found in warehouses etc. I have learnt far more from the party scene than from college or work… now thats what I call enlightenment.
Thats in fact where my screen name comes from – not that I particularly like armies and military stuff – but “General Lighting” is what electricians and techies call the main lights of a building – the lights you turn on as you enter a new party warehouse, or set up a workshop in a squatted building to make artwork or fix bikes and other vehicles.
If we keep spreading enlightement (like you are doing by telling us what is really going on in the USA..) we can overpower the dangerous beams of the illuminati!
-GL-2003-01-04January 4, 2003 at 9:44 pm #708636Anonymous
Thank goodness someone other than myself has read/ heard about illuminati..
These days youre considered a crackpot if you find any truth in the conspiracy theories… of course thats the reaction that lets the evil continue to work…
I could go on, but heres a parting thought about legalisation:
If drugs were legal, it would result in far less money for the current ringleaders of the drug trade, and less money to finance the coffers of the New World OrderJanuary 6, 2003 at 2:17 pm #708656
The problem with conspiricy theories is there are so many and they range from true… dwba’s gouvernment getting power illegally and being made up of Oil company tycoons who are robbing the US blind in plain sight.
To invisible lizard aliens from other plains of existence.
Try not to get to whimsical and focus on getting a world court where Bush et al can by tried and sentenced for their crimes.January 6, 2003 at 7:07 pm #708637Anonymous
lol cliff… invisible lizard aliens….
Im all for a court that judges based on morality & not money.July 5, 2003 at 7:17 am #708652Louis TherouxParticipant
More than 100 arrests made in MDMA ring raids
Today, the Drug Enforcement Administration, together with the U.S. Customs Service, Internal Revenue Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, announced the arrests of more than 100 individuals in twelve cities in connection with a nationwide investigation targeting the illegal trafficking of pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine is an essential precursor chemical used to manufacture the illegal drug, methamphetamine. The investigation “Operation Mountain Express III” is expected to have a significant impact on the availability of pseudoephedrine resulting in a drastic decrease in the supply of methamphetamine in the United States.
In addition to today’s 54 arrests, 67 individuals were arrested previously as part of this investigation. Today federal agents also executed 49 search warrants, confiscated 96 automobiles, restrained bank accounts, businesses, and residences, and seized $350,000 in U.S. currency in connection with this investigation. As of noon today, Operation Mountain Express (Phases I, II, & III) has resulted in the seizure of over 30 tons of pseudoephedrine, 181 pounds of methamphetamine, over 300 arrests, 9 clandestine methamphetamine laboratories, and over $16 million in U.S. Currency.
MR. HUTCHINSON: Good afternoon. I’m Asa Hutchinson, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. I am pleased to be joined by Robert Bonner, commissioner of Customs; as well as Bob Wenzel, on my left, who is the deputy commissioner of IRS, to make the announcement today.
I am pleased to announce the successful completion of the third phase of Operation Mountain Express, a 12-month investigation that targets the epicenter of methamphetamine production in this country. As I came to the DEA, being a member of Congress from Arkansas, I fully understood the difficulties of methamphetamine and the impact of it. It has been a high priority. And so it is with some degree of pleasure that we have dismantled two nationwide criminal networks that were trafficking multi-ton amounts of pseudoephedrine to methamphetamine producers in the United States.
Today the DEA and other law enforcement partners across the country have issued arrest warrants for 89 major pseudoephedrine traffickers in 10 cities across the country, from Detroit to Los Angeles, to Phoenix, to Chicago. During the course of the investigation, we have also closed down nine large-scale methamphetamine laboratories operating in California. Fifty-six of the targeted individuals are in custody. We have issued and executed 49 search warrants across the country today. The three key cell leaders are in custody. This is the first national enforcement operation that targets bulk suppliers of pseudoephedrine from Canada, and these traffickers smuggled in multi-ton quantities of pseudoephedrine from Canada, and sold this drug either directly, or through brokers to Mexican nationals operating meth labs in the United States.
And if you look over at the chart over at the right, you can see that Mountain Express III starts in Canada, where the pseudoephedrine, many times in semi-trailer truckloads, go across the border to Detroit, housed partly in Chicago; it is transported through semi-trailer truckloads over into California where it is used in the laboratories.
On my left, you will see two comparisons. One, on the left, is a van load of pseudoephedrine, which is a typical quantity that was targeted in the first phases of Mountain Express, I and II. Since then they have moved to a little bit larger operation — you can see on my far left — Mountain Express III, which reflects semi-trailer truckloads of pseudoephedrine that comes across the border into the United States.
The typical operation method was that these traffickers would go to great length to hide their activities by using a FedEx logo on the truck, or even using a trailer that was stolen from the United States Mail, and using that logo on their truck to appear legitimate. The majority of the traffickers are of Middle Eastern descent, and we have determined that they send drug proceeds in part back to the Middle East, and we are continuing to follow the money trail.
During all of the phases of Mountain Express, phases I, II and II, we have seized 30 tons of pseudoephedrine from these two groups. This would make about 37,000 pounds of methamphetamine. To give you an idea of how significant that amount is, consider that last year U.S. authorities reported only 6,000 pounds seized nationwide. To put this in another picture —and we are grateful for our Canadian counterparts and the cooperation they have extended during this operation —but in Canada, one of the reasons that they went across the border, is that in Canada the pseudoephedrine is not regulated, and so it is lawful to load up a semi-trailer truckload in Canada of pseudoephedrine. It is illegal to bring it in the United States when it is going in to illegal purposes. But in Canada, in the year 2000, 55 metric tons of pseudoephedrine was brought into the commonwealth, or Canada, the nation of Canada, during the whole year for all purposes. Of those 55 metric tons, in phase III of Operation Mountain Express, we seized 16 metric tons coming into the United States, and going into illegal purposes. And so 25 percent of all the pseudoephedrine that was brought into Canada was seized coming illegally into the United States. And we are hopeful that this operation, and the illustration of this case, will move forward legislation in Canada that will regulate pseudoephedrine that it is such a problem in the United States.
These quantities confirm the enormous demand for methamphetamine in the United States. It is no doubt one of the work drug epidemics that we have seen in this nation. It is certainly predominant in the rural areas of our country, and it leaves behind a trail of crime, broken families, wasted lives and death.
And I believe that we are making progress on the methamphetamine problem in our nation. Let me be clear I believe that our strategy is working. We are dismantling the trafficking organizations, targeting those—putting pressure on those, increasing the risk to them. Secondly, we are eliminating the supply source for pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient going into methamphetamine. And that is illustrated by the efforts in this particular case. Thirdly, we are continuing our education efforts across the country to educate people to the dangers of methamphetamine. Two years ago we began Operation Mountain Express. We have had unprecedented success putting out of business 68 rogue chemical companies. And now we are moving it into the bulk supply that is coming out of our neighbors from the north, from Canada. We have shut down the domestic source of pseudoephedrine to a large extent, and now we are stopping the bulk supply coming in from across the border.
I am delighted that we have had great cooperation from our enforcement partners, that are represented on this stage —and of course many of the state and local partnerships that we have across the country. And now I’d like to welcome Rob Bonner, commissioner of Customs —thank him for his great leadership and work, and the cooperation that is illustrated in this case.
MR. BONNER: Thank you, Asa. The U.S. Customs Service is proud to be a partner with the DEA in Operation Mountain Express III. This is a great example of law enforcement agencies working together, from the Canadian border where the methamphetamine precursors were crossing into the United States, all the way to the illegal methamphetamine labs in California, where most of the methamphetamine in the United States is made and then distributed across our country.
In this case, U.S. Customs and the DEA were assisted by the Internal Revenue Service, by the RCMP, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and by the Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency.
During the past nine months, to put this in a time sequence, from about April of 2001 until December of last year, about a month ago, the U.S. Customs Service has seized 110 million pseudoephedrine tablets that were being smuggled into the United States from Canada. That’s about, by the way, if you want to translate that into pounds, that’s about 60,000 pounds of pseudoephedrine tablets, which would yield anywhere from 40 to perhaps as much as 50,000 pounds of methamphetamine. That’s about 40,- or 50,000 pounds of methamphetamine that wasn’t produced, because Customs seized the pseudoephedrine at the border.
Now, the 110 million tablets that were seized were seized in eight different seizures, as I said the first one being in April of 2001, and the last one took place on December 5th —just about a month ago. The DEA provided intelligence, by the way, for some of these seizures to the U.S. Customs Service, and others were, as they say, “cold hits” —no pun intended here. The —all of the diverted pseudoephedrine that Customs seized arrived by commercial trucks entering the United States from Canada at Michigan and Minnesota. In fact, all of these seizures took place —if I —demonstrated here —all of these seizures took place, all of these eight seizures, and the 110 million tablets —took place at the Port of Detroit —commercial trucks coming across from Canada into the United States at Detroit, and at the Port of Port Huron, which is also in Michigan. There was one of the seizures that actually took place in Minnesota at Grant Portage, Minnesota. So, as I said, all of these seizures took place —came across the Canadian border into the United States.
Customs officers found pseudoephedrine hidden in these commercial trucks in shipments of furniture, shipments that were described on the shipping manifest as glassware, and did contain glassware —but they concealed a huge amount of pseudoephedrine. And there was even one shipment of bubble gum.
The first of the eight seizures occurred on April 11th of 2001, and it was a particularly brazen attempt to smuggle a huge amount of pseudoephedrine into the United States. A truck driver arrived at the Port of Detroit with a shipping manifest claiming that the truck was empty. And, by the way, that’s not unusual to have empties coming back across the border. But the manifest said this truck was empty. And, despite that, the very alert Customs inspector decided to order that truck over to what’s called secondary inspection. And inside the truck he found 43 million tablets of pseudoephedrine packed in about — many boxes. In fact, that photo over there is a photograph of the inside of that supposedly empty tractor-trailer truck that contained 43 million pseudoephedrine tabs, or about — roughly about 12 tons of pseudoephedrine. The stash was more than large enough to convince the Customs inspector that these drugs were going to be used for something other than to treat colds. In fact, I think there was enough decongestant in that — that one truck itself to unplug about every nose in Michigan for several years.
This case indicates that Canada has become the major source of pseudoephedrine used for the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine in the United States, meth that is then sold on the streets and towns and rural areas across the United States illegally. And meth, as Administrator Hutchinson knows, is a particularly nasty and pernicious and addictive drug, and it’s one that Customs, along with the DEA, want to do everything we can to keep —to make it more difficult to get.
I want to commend Administrator Hutchinson and the DEA for leading this very effective investigation that has brought down two large Middle Eastern drug trafficking organizations —the Jafar organization out of Detroit and the Yassoui (ph) Brothers organization that is operated and based in and out of Chicago. These organizations were the suppliers of huge amounts of pseudoephedrine to Mexican meth traffickers in California who manufacture and then distribute most of the meth that you see around the United States. By targeting and removing these groups, the manufacture of meth will definitely be made more difficult. We must, however, cut off the supply of these precursor chemicals, the pseudoephedrine coming in from Canada.
I am very pleased, by the way, that Customs contributed to this successful investigation in several ways: through our Customs inspectors who seized large amounts of these precursors at the border; through the work of our Customs special agents, who were involved in several controlled deliveries following from those seizures; and through our Customs air interdiction unit, that provided aerial surveillance to assist agents on the ground. Thank you.
MR. WENZELL: Well, thank you, Administrator Hutchinson and Commissioner Bonner. The Internal Revenue Service stands proudly in partnership with the attorney general, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Customs Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to bring to justice those who are engaged in narcotics trafficking in America.
The IRS special agents bring unique financial investigative expertise to many types of investigations, and their skills are particularly useful in this kind of narcotic investigations. Narcotics trafficking generates huge amounts of untaxed income, usually in the form of currency that must be concealed using elaborate money laundering schemes and other sophisticated means.
For the Internal Revenue Service, the major goal in financial investigations is to identify and document the movement of money during the course of a crime. The link between where the money comes from, who gets it, when it is received, and where it is stored or deposited can provide proof of criminal activity. Often our findings take us directly to the door of the leaders of the narcotic organizations. We are part of a very formidable team of law enforcement agencies whose mission is to find these operations and stamp them out. And we are committed to getting the job done. Thank you.
MR. HUTCHINSON: Following any questions that you might have for Rob Bonner and Bob and myself, we will have a presentation by the operations individuals from each of the different agencies. But we would be happy to take any questions now.
Q Are you suspicious that money —(inaudible) —back to the Middle East is in some way funding terrorism projects, or do you have any idea?
MR. HUTCHINSON: There is no indication of a terrorist connection to any of these operations. It is standard procedure that whenever we have an investigation we follow the money. And so we are continuing to follow that to see where that money goes. But at this point there is not any indications that there is any connection with terrorist activities.
Q You thank the Canadian law enforcement agencies for their role in assisting you in this. But do you not think that the Canadian government has been negligent in not clamping down on the use of pseudoephedrine in Canada sooner?
MR. HUTCHINSON: Let me just say from a very positive standpoint we want them to move expeditiously. This is very important to what we are trying to accomplish in the United States, and we urge the Canadian government to move as quickly as possible to enact regulatory legislation. I know that our ambassador, Paul Salucci has —we’ve talked to him, Commissioner Sacadelli (ph) with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police we visited with. So we urge .them to move very quickly. And I think this case will illustrate the importance of it and the necessity of it.
MR. BONNER: Could I just add one thing to that? And that is I want to echo Administrator Hutchinson’s comments, and that is that we had incredibly good cooperation from Canadian law enforcement, from the RCMP and from the Canadian Customs Agency here. In fact, they were extremely helpful. I believe also that it’s fair to say that the Canadian government is aware of this issue; and that is that there are huge amounts of pseudoephedrine that are being smuggled into the United States. And I understand that they are taking steps, the legal steps that are necessary and the regulatory steps that are necessary to address the issue.
Q Can you provide us more details about the organization that was involved in Montreal in the smuggling?
MR. HUTCHINSON: Well, the organizations that we have targeted are based in Detroit and Chicago, and the activities in Canada again involve legitimate sales of pseudoephedrine. So the organizations we targeted were out of Detroit and Chicago.
Q There was an organization in Montreal —somebody to provide the drugs?
MR. HUTCHINSON: Yes, they were businesses and manufacturers, distributors of pseudoephedrine were the companies. But they were legal sales at that point. And so they were not a part or a target of the investigation.
Q (Off mike) —Canadians among the warrants or arrests that you have made?
MR. HUTCHINSON: I’d have to check for sure, and our operations people could answer that. But I am not aware of it at this point.
Q Were these Middle Eastern men —were they U.S. citizens, or were they Middle East —or were they here on visas, or how were they here?
MR. HUTCHINSON: They—most —many of them, the majority of them were here in a legal status. We are in the process of checking obviously with INS as to their status, the background, and alerting them of their arrests.
Q Were any U.S. citizens?
MR. HUTCHINSON: The—I believe that you will find in the 86 targeted individuals that some will be United States citizens. The majority, the vast majority, were—had a legal resident status here from Middle Eastern countries.
Q (Off mike)?
MR. HUTCHINSON: They will be outlined for you shortly. We do have their countries. The majority of them were from Jordan and Iraq.
Q When you say you are still tracking the money that is going to the Middle East, and you haven’t found any connection to terrorism yet, that search is still continuing —you haven’t ruled that out yet, is that right?
MR. HUTCHINSON: That is correct. That is correct.
Q Mr. Administrator, can you tell us—Nine labs were controlled by Mexican traffickers. And I was wondering if there is any connection between those Mexicans who were involved in these labs and any major drug cartel organization in Mexico?
MR. HUTCHINSON: Well, any time you are talking about this huge volume of methamphetamine, we consider them significant criminal organizations. And these are Mexican national organizations engaged in manufacturing methamphetamine through the super labs in California.
Q Commissioner, I am wondering about specifically what the sources were in Ottawa and Montreal —where they were buying the pseudoephedrine.
MR. BONNER: I think the administrator answered that, that they were buying it from distributors of various kinds of pharmaceuticals, including pseudoephedrine. So they were buying bulk quantities from distributors in Canada who were essentially either manufacturing it in tab form, because most of this —almost all of this was not powder pseudoephedrine; it was already encapsulated in tabs, and it was being bought in bulk quantities and then smuggled out of Canada into the United States. So these would be distributors in Canada. And one of —
Q What’s the brand name?
MR. BONNER: Well, let me ask the administrator to address the names.
MR. HUTCHINSON: Well, there were two companies in Canada, Frega and Formulex
Q Can you spell it?
MR. HUTCHINSON: F-O-R-M-U-L-E-X.
Q And Frega?
MR. HUTCHINSON: Frega, F-R-E-G-A —and if I am wrong on that, my operations folks will correct later. But again, these are two legitimate Canadian companies that are not a target of the investigation. There is no indication of any illegal activity, because it was, again, legal in Canada for the sale of the pseudoephedrine, even in large quantities. There was a previous company, Expromedic (ph), that was a bogus company, that was previously dismantled because they were buying it and then bringing it in for that intent and purpose. But that was not the major supplier in this case.
Q Commissioner, was it packaged in a type of format that you buy in a pharmacy for instance? Or was it in —you know, was there a brand name on it when it came across the border?
MR. HUTCHINSON: It was all in tablet form, just like it would be sold in the stores.
Q No brand name?
MR. BONNER: I don’t believe there were any brand names. When Customs seized these tabs at the border entry points, any brand name had been removed from it. And they usually came initially in thousand-tab bottles, which are pretty big bottles, and then they moved to 32,000 tab bottles, which are huge bottles —in shipping it. But there were —if I am not mistaken, ‘I don’t believe there were names on the bottles themselves that would indicate the manufacturer.
Q So, to be perfectly clear, in Canada it’s legal to buy this as a cough medication, but in the States it’s not?
MR. BONNER: No, no. First of all, it’s illegal to purchase pseudoephedrine in the United States for purposes of using it in the illegal manufacturer of methamphetamine, which is an illegal drug. We have the same issue here. I mean, there are legitimate uses of pseudoephedrine, and I actually should let Administrator Hutchinson speak to this —but there are legitimate uses for pseudoephedrine. The question here is diversion for illegal manufacture. And right now in Canada they do not have, in my judgment, adequate laws and regulations to protect against the illegal diversion of pseudoephedrine for the illegal manufacture of pseudoephedrine.
Q Judge Bonner —Judge Bonner, you said that the Canadian law enforcement authorities had been overwhelmingly cooperative, and that you have urged the Canadian law makers to address this problem. What has been the lawmakers response?
MR. BONNER: Well, first of all, this is something I know that Administrator Hutchinson has been involved in along with me in terms of encouraging the Canadians to take effective action to staunch this flow of illegal pseudoephedrine. I know that there is —I have been told —I understand that the Canadians —the government at the political level is aware of this problem, and I have been advised that they are taking steps to strengthen their laws and regulations to make it more difficult —much more difficult —for this kind of illegal diversion. And that’s by, what, taking a look at how much pseudo they are importing —this is powder pseudo —and seeing if it matches up —this is what we do in the U.S. —see if it matches up with the amount of pseudo you need to treat the colds of the 30 million or so Canadians —or whether you’ve got a lot more than you need, which might indicate illegal diversion, and then making sure that you have the people that are coming in to bulk distributors of pseudoephedrine to these .ocompanies that Administrator Hutchinson talked about —making sure that they get adequate identification, and they record that identification and the purpose for which the pseudoephedrine is going to be used; which is one of the most effective things, by the way, the DEA did in terms of eliminating the diversion of pseudoephedrine in the United States.
Q Do you think these companies are knowingly turning a blind eye to the fact that they are obviously selling much more of this commodity than could possibly be consumed in Canada, and they are making profits in essence off the back of the drug industry here?
MR. HUTCHINSON: Well, you’d be asking me to judge intent and motive, and I don’t believe I am in a position to do that. It is my understanding that the Canadian companies were cooperative. And to illustrate the cooperation of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, even though it is not illegal in that country, they were very helpful in this investigation, knowing that it was a serious problem in the United States and is something that they were assisting in our investigation in. To further underscore the distinction between the Canadian law and the United States law, as Commissioner Bonner, who has a good advantage in this discussion, since he was previously administrator of the DEA, it is correct —you know, in the United States it is legal to sell pseudoephedrine when it is for a legitimate purpose. But it is illegal when we know that the intent is that it goes for an illegal purpose, such as being used in a meth lab. In Canada there is just no regulation. And so the intent is not the issue in Canada. And so that is what the distinction is and what hamstrings us. And hopefully that will be remedied very quickly.
Q What will the specific charges be against the individuals that have been arrested?
MR. HUTCHINSON: There will be a range of charges. Obviously conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine; to import or to bring in and illegally distribute a List One chemical or a listed chemical; there will be a charge in Congress to strengthen the penalties for that so that it now is up to a 20-year penalty for the illegal distribution of a listed chemical. Yes, ma’am?
Q In the wake of the 9-11 attacks, did you add more resources to this investigation? Did it take on a new urgency because it’s a border question, of people that could smuggle things across the border, dangerous weapons, et cetera? And, secondly, did you —are you looking more closely now at the people that you are focusing on, doing more checks, tracing their links back more aggressively in the wake of the attacks?
MR. HUTCHINSON: Clearly this case began before September 11 in the context of Mountain Express I and phase II. What has changed since September 11, from our standpoint at the DEA, is the critical necessity of chasing the flow of money —in not just this particular case but in all cases involving drugs —because we see drugs as being a means in some instances of financing violent activity. Mr. Bonner might have a comment on the border there. But that’s certainly very much of an interest to us, is the flow of the money.
MR. BONNER: We are certainly of course since September the 11th —I mean, we are very concerned about border security at the Customs Service. And, as you probably know, we are at Level One alert at both the northern and the southern border of the United States, which means that we are much more aggressively questioning people and searching goods and cargo coming into the U.S. But I can’t say that the timing itself was affected here. And in fact, as Administrator Hutchinson indicated, and as I have indicated, actually some of these seizures at the border took place as early as April of last year —so before September the 11th.
Q How confident are you that Detroit and —(inaudible) —Minnesota are the only ports of entry? What about going through Washington —is that —Washington State —or other ports of entry?
MR. BONNER: We seized an incredible amount, Customs did, of pseudo—110 million tablets —60,000 pounds. We didn’t seize it all. I mean, there was more pseudoephedrine that crossed from the Canadian border in the United States that we were not able to seize, because some of the pseudoephedrine the DEA found at laboratories where the DEA went in with search warrants —they found pseudoephedrine that was coming in from Canada. So we didn’t get it all. I think we got a huge amount, when you think about it. But obviously we .are talking about volumes that are coming across from Canada that exceed the 110 million tablets that Customs is actually able to seize.
Q You are already at a Level One alert on the northern and southern borders as you just pointed out. Knowing that —or possibly given the fact that pseudoephedrine may have come from other border ports from Canada into the United States, are you stepping up your presence even more so? Are you adding more people to let’s say a border in Montana or a point of entry in Washington State?
MR. BONNER: We have a stepped up presence, which gives me —against the terrorist threat right now —which gives me greater confidence that Customs is going to be able to seize a much higher percentage of the pseudoephedrine. And I think we are doing it. And, yeah, we are concerned about more of the northern —the ports with Canada beyond just Michigan and Minnesota. (Cross talk.)
Q What is the value of the seizure? What is the value ot the seizure?
MR. HUTCHINSON: We are resisting putting values on seizures. We’ll give you amounts. But we don’t quantify it in terms of the amount.
Q Administrator Hutchinson —(off mike) —a chemical derivative of something else —it is produced in Canada or is it imported from Canada?
MR. HUTCHINSON: The pseudoephedrine is manufactured —a lot of it comes from China. It is brought into Canada in powder form, and then it is put in capsule form, remanufactured there in Canada and distributed. That is the means in this case that happened.
Q And the amount of —(off mike) —imported into Canada has grown dramatically in the past year?
MR. HUTCHINSON: Correct, correct.
Q Would you —(inaudible} —the money that’s going to —you are following the money trail right now —do you know where —can you give us a suggestion at all about what country you might be talking about this money going back to?
MR. HUTCHINSON: This is an ongoing investigation. I think that it is preliminary, so I would not want to point in a specific direction. But we know enough now that there is a money trail going back to various countries in the Middle East, and that’s all we can comment on now at the present time. I want to —we are going to have our operations people, and I think everybody here will acknowledge the greater work of the Customs, the IRS agents out in the field, as well as the DEA agents. I am very proud of the great work they did —courageous and extraordinary leadership on this issue. And they will be able to answer any more technical questions. If there’s broad, overreaching questions, we’ll be happy to answer.
Q Do you have an idea of what the percentage is that you have captured compared to what comes across the border in a typical year?
MR. HUTCHINSON: The percent that I gave was the percent captured of all the imports into Canada, which is an incredible fact when it’s 25 percent. I don’t have the percent as to what we are capturing coming across the borders. There’s been estimates. I want to just make one final point, if I might. This coming in from Canada takes over to California, and of course this is where it comes and is distributed through middle America. So even though the lines are drawn from Canada, Chicago to California, it is middle America that it is distributed to. So this is truly nationwide in scope and nationwide hopefully in impact as well. Let’s take one final question here and then we’re done.
Q Okay, it is my understanding that the dogs for Customs cannot sniff out pseudoephedrine. So how is it that you are coming across this, and is it just purely random?
MR. BONNER: Well, first of all, that’s an interesting thing. I need to there are going to be some technical people, our operations people from Customs and the DEA that are going to follow us here. So I don’t know if the assumption of your question is accurate —it may well be. But how were we able to be so successful? Part of it was we got some very good leads from the DEA for some of these seizures —about half of them I think.
Q Intelligence driven?
MR. BONNER: Intelligence driven. About half of them though were I mean cold hits —they were done by Customs inspectors who were doing their very alert good job in the field in terms of inspecting container trucks coming from Canada. And so it was a combination of both things. And I am going to leave to John Varrone (ph) or somebody who will stay behind here the specific thing in terms of the dog capabilities.
MR. HUTCHINSON: Thank you very much. And we’ll have our operations people, for those who are interested in a more specific Power Point presentation in this case.
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