Pubdate: Wed, 25 Sep 2002
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2002 San Francisco Examiner
Author: Richard Byrne Reilly, Of The Examiner Staff


A routine traffic stop led San Francisco police to The City's biggest
ecstasy bust ever -- a local connection to a nationwide sweep of more
than 100 people accused of selling ecstasy over the Internet.

Richard Zee, 44, faces an array of federal drug charges after police
used a battering ram to get into his Castro apartment last month --
and turned up 800 ecstasy tablets, gallons of liquid GHB used to make
ecstasy, $200,000 worth of crystal meth and $316,000 in cash.

Zee is now in federal custody awaiting arraignment. He faces more than
10 years in prison if convicted, according to Capt. Tim Hettrich, head
of the SFPD narcotics division.

"The bust is going to make a serious dent in the 'E' market for both
street dealers and dealers selling the drug at nightclubs," Hettrich
said Tuesday.

Cops also seized measuring scales, computers, digital cameras and
notebooks containing names and phone numbers. The computers were
turned over to Drug Enforcement Administration officials, who are
expected to pore through the contents of their hard drives for leads.

Three storage lockers rented by Zee resulted in additional bundles of
cash. Also confiscated was Zee's late-model black BMW and phony
registration documents, Hettrich said. Cops also took possession of a
large Schwab investment account in Zee's name.

San Francisco police and DEA agents are still pursuing additional
suspects tied to the case, Hettrich said.

Hettrich said Zee was tied to a major ring that sold GHB over the
Internet that was busted up in a huge DEA undercover sting called
"Operation Webslinger" in September. More than 100 people in Buffalo,
N.Y; San Diego; Mobile, Ala.; and Quebec were arrested on suspicion of
using the Net to hawk the illicit narcotic.

"His name turned up in a bunch of notebooks," Hettrich

Officials credited old-fashioned police work for catching Zee. Police
had placed him under surveillance after he was stopped in July for
driving erratically and drugs were discovered in his car. He was out
on bail on those charges when police raided his apartment a month later.

"He's a very big player. No doubt about it," a federal law enforcement
official said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake