Pubdate: Thu, 27 Jul 2000
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2000 The Washington Post Company
Contact:  1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071
Author: William Booth, Washington Post Staff Writer


LOS ANGELES, July 26 - Federal agents announced today they made the largest 
seizure of the party drug Ecstasy ever in the United States - some 2.1 
million tablets - in a sting operation targeting a sophisticated smuggling 
ring that brought the designer drug from Amsterdam through Paris to Los 
Angeles International Airport.

In other actions, police in London and Toronto also announced today major 
busts of Ecstasy traffickers. In the Canadian operation, code-named 
"Project Dr. Feelgood," police raided a laboratory operated by professional 
chemists and seized enough pure Ecstasy to make about 400,000 tablets.

In Los Angeles, the seizure and the hunt for the group's ringleaders, who 
have eluded custody, point to the increasing attention that the government 
is giving to Ecstasy, a controversial drug that some federal officials 
describe as a dangerous, brain-damaging scourge, while many users - 
including a lot of young adults who attend "rave" parties - describe the 
drug as a relatively benign high that produces euphoria and a desire to dance.

The U.S. Customs Service reports that it has seized about 8 million doses 
of the drug in the past 10 months, which is more than twice the 3.5 million 
pills seized during fiscal 1999.

According to court documents, federal agents have been investigating a 
"high-level" trafficking drug ring led by Tamer Adel Ibrahim for 10 months. 
The ring operates by importing the drug from Amsterdam. It is manufactured 
by professional chemists in the Netherlands, where they have easy access to 
Ecstasy's precursor chemicals. Ecstasy is then smuggled to the United 
States in packages or hidden on human "mules" taking commercial flights.

Authorities estimate it costs about 25 cents to make one dose, which can 
sell for $20 to $40 a hit at a rave or nightclub. Federal officials 
estimate the seizure at the Los Angeles airport last weekend was worth as 
much as $40 million on the street.

So far, agents said, they have seized about 2,400 pounds of Ecstasy in 
attempted shipments of the drug by the Ibrahim ring in Los Angeles, San 
Francisco, Germany and Italy. Seven people have been arrested, though 
Ibrahim, 26, of Los Angeles, remains a fugitive.

Federal drug enforcement agents and other experts say that while Ecstasy 
was once limited to a few large cities and small subcultures - gay men, 
ravers, committed club goers - it is now entering the mainstream.

"We are finding it wherever there are young folks looking to party," said 
Mark Trouville, special agent in charge of the Los Angeles office of the 
Drug Enforcement Administration.

Raymond Kelly, commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service, said, "This 
record-setting seizure signals that Ecstasy smuggling has reached an 
astounding new level. Capitalizing on increased demand, organized crime 
groups are flooding our nation with Ecstasy at a rate never seen before."

Ecstasy can leave users overheated and dehydrated, especially if they 
attend raves and dance all night without drinking water. The number of 
Ecstasy users showing up in hospital emergency rooms has increased 
recently, from 68 in 1993 to 647 in 1998, the last year for which records 
are available.
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