Georgia's Largest Ecstasy Manufacturing Case
JUN 11 -- Atlanta, GA - MARC EUGENE NOBLITT, 39 years of age, formerly of Riverdale, Georgia, was sentenced Monday by United States District Judge Clarence Cooper for orchestrating the largest ecstasy manufacturing operation prosecuted in Georgia. Overall, the manufacturing conspiracy established and operated at least seven ecstasy laboratories in the Atlanta area starting in 1998 and continuing until the organization was dismantled by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in November 2003.
NOBLITT was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release, and fined $5,000 to pay for the costs of his extradition from Germany. NOBLITT was convicted of these charges on February 22, 2007.
The identified and charged ringleaders of the ecstasy operation were NOBLITT and MICHAEL OGBURN, of Atlanta. OGBURN committed suicide after his arrest in November 2003. NOBLITT cut off an electronic monitoring bracelet and jumped bond before his trial was to begin in February 2005. He was recaptured on April 22, 2006, in Cologne, Germany, and extradited back to the United States, where he entered a non-negotiated plea of guilty on February 22, 2007. With the exception of NOBLITT all the remaining defendants had entered guilty pleas and were sentenced in 2005.
DEA Atlanta Field Division Special Agent in Charge Rodney G. Benson said, “These defendants are a group of college educated individuals who could have been anyone’s next door neighbor. However, they made the conscious choice to deliberately misuse their knowledge, let greed dictate their actions, turn their backs on society and in essence provide the loaded gun to our youth. SAC Benson explained, “Because Ecstasy use promotes euphoria, feelings of closeness, empathy, and reduces inhibitions it is an attractive drug to our younger generation. However, as Ecstasy continues to be falsely peddled as the “hug drug” to our nation’s adolescents and young adults; people are dying in emergency rooms. As parents, we all must keep talking to our children about the tough topics. It’s not just the stranger lurking in the shadows that they should be wary of, it’s the people around them who pretend to be friends, yet lead them down a path full of land mines. Our children are the nation’s future and DEA is committed to protecting them.”
“This is the first prosecution of this kind in Georgia, and one of the few instances in the entire Southeastern United States where drug dealers manufactured their own ecstasy,” said United States Attorney David. E. Nahmias. “It’s a difficult chemical process that requires a high level of sophistication to complete. It’s rare to find a single ecstasy lab, and this group had several operating at once. This prosecution involves some intelligent, highly-educated young people who used their college degrees to unleash a dangerous, addictive drug on the community,” Nahmias said. “The case also shows that drug dealers cannot run and hide to avoid being prosecuted, as we will find them and bring them to justice.”
NOBLITT and OGBURN began manufacturing ecstasy in small laboratories inside residences in Atlanta and in smaller towns outside the city such as Jonesboro, and Rex, Georgia, from 1998 through 2001. Afterward, NOBLITT and OGBURN discovered it was more lucrative to train others to establish ecstasy laboratories on their behalf and obtain the finished product at a discount. Through all the labs, NOBLITT and OGBURN’s organization manufactured an estimated 44 kilograms of ecstasy, which was then packed into gelatin capsules or pressed into tablets and distributed in Atlanta and elsewhere. At the close of the investigation in 2003, agents dismantled two laboratories operated by individuals who were manufacturing ecstasy for distribution by NOBLITT and OGBURN; these laboratories were operating inside residential homes in Buckhead and Barnesville, Georgia. The laboratories contained enough chemicals and equipment to manufacture an addition 10-20 kilograms of ecstasy powder.
According to the evidence, the discovery of the Barnesville lab was key to the prosecution of the case. On September 16, 2003, drug investigators working for the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation received a complaint from a neighbor about unusual odors coming from a house in Barnesville, Georgia. The agents searched the house and discovered a functioning ecstasy laboratory, described by DEA as the largest in Georgia history. Agents arrested ADAM MORTON, 28, of Atlanta, Georgia, in connection with that laboratory, and the investigation immediately tied the lab to NOBLITT and OGBURN. Four months later, in January 2004, agents found another operating lab tied to the organization, located in house at 25 Lakeland Drive, which sits in a residential neighborhood in Buckhead just off Roswell Road.
Together, the laboratories manufactured enough ecstasy to make almost 600,000 ecstasy tablets, with a street value of approximately $10 million. The evidence showed that the NOBLITT and OGBURN organization benefited from a surge in the popularity of ecstasy among club-going young adults in the late 1990's. The surge in ecstasy use coincided with a growth in the popularity of rave parties and dance clubs in Atlanta and across the United States.
NOBLITT first initiated the plan to manufacture ecstasy with a high school friend, HOWARD BRADSHAW, 37, of Atlanta, who had earned a chemistry degree from Georgia Tech University. NOBLITT later taught the procedure for manufacturing ecstasy to ALVIN CHOI, 30, of Atlanta, who graduated with a chemistry degree from Emory University. BRADSHAW and CHOI both entered guilty pleas in the case in 2005.
In July 2001, OGBURN and NOBLITT were manufacturing ecstasy in the basement of NOBLITT’s residence in Riverdale when a container of chemicals exploded in OGBURN’s face. Investigators obtained hospital records showing that OGBURN received treatment for serious burns and lacerations on his face and arms.
The investigation showed that in November 2001, OGBURN was the victim of a home invasion robbery committed by members of the “Diablos” gang, which targeted high-level drug dealers for robberies while wearing Fulton County Deputy Sheriff uniforms. During the robbery, members of the Diablos gang handcuffed and beat OGBURN, locked him inside a closet, and stole $30,000 in cash and two kilograms of ecstasy powder. The members of the Diablos gang later were arrested and prosecuted by the Atlanta U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Other defendants already sentenced in the case include:
The case was investigated through a joint effort by the Drug Enforcement Administration; City of Alpharetta Police Department; Lamar County Sheriff’s Department, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Atlanta Police Department, the Marietta-Cobb-Smyrna Drug Task Force, and the United States Marshal’s Service. Assistant United States Attorney John Horn prosecuted the case.
DEA Atlanta Field Division SAC Benson recommends parents and children learn about the dangers of drugs at the following website: www.justhinktwice.com