SAC Crowell speaking with the media regarding the dangers of synthetic drugs and the impact of Rochester's investigation.
SEP 18 (ROCHESTER, N.Y.) Yesterday, federal authorities in Rochester announced that a significant international synthetic drug trafficking ring was successfully infiltrated. In the Rochester area, eight defendants were charged by criminal complaint for their participation in the conspiracy to import and distribute significant quantities of Methylone, also known as "Molly," a Schedule I controlled substance, from a source of supply located in China. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine, or both.
The charges were announced by William J. Hochul, Jr. United States. Attorney, Western District of New York, Brian R. Crowell DEA Special Agent in Charge, New York Division, Kevin Niland, Postal Inspector in Charge, Boston Division and James C. Spero, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Buffalo.
Named in the criminal complaint are: Joshua Buerman, 25; Michele Hess, 21; Kevin Willard, 21; Andrew Bosch, 28; Madhu Ashok, 21; Lance Minielly, 23; Jesse James Macaveny, 20; and Rita Levy Panzica, 18, all of Rochester, N.Y.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas E. Gregory, who is handling the case, stated that according to the complaint, since June 2012, members of the organization utilized a source of supply located in China to obtain significant quantities of Methylone, as well as several other synthetic substances. Methylone is a stimulant that has a chemical structure closely related to 3,4-methyelenedioxymethamphetamine, known commonly as "MDMA" or "ecstasy." Its crystalline form is often sold on the streets and in clubs by the shorthand term "Molly." Methylone was the subject of an October, 2011 Drug Enforcement Administration Emergency Scheduling Order and was permanently listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in April 2013.
As part of its investigation, the Government obtained a court order authorizing the interception of e-mail communications occurring over an e-mail address belonging to the source of supply in China. During the 30 day interception period, investigators generated more than 450 leads which were disseminated to various police agencies across the United States. These leads resulted in 54 arrests nationwide, with the subjects located in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Missouri, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, California and Texas. Agents also seized more than 70 kilograms of Methylone and numerous controlled substance analogs, several kilograms of cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA, more than $50,000 in cash, several motor vehicles and seven weapons, including several firearms.
Rochester investigators also obtained evidence indicating that the China-based supplier was shipping an assortment of controlled substances and controlled substance analogs to numerous customers located abroad, including but not limited to Austria, Canada, Finland, Spain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Lithuania.
In August, 2013, investigators learned through the e-mail interception that several shipments of Methylone were being shipped to members of the Rochester organization. The packages were intercepted and found to contain a total of 3.5 kilograms of Methylone crystals.
DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian R. Crowell stated, "There has been a 300% increase in poison centers nationwide responding to calls related to synthetic drugs and 60 percent of the cases involved patients 25 years old and younger. Our youth are the targets of drug trafficking organizations distributing synthetic drugs like Methylone under the guise of it being molly or ecstasy. Today's arrests are of members of a molly distribution crew responsible for spreading this dangerous poison throughout the northeast. Kids need to know they are not taking ecstasy. We are seeing street dealers selling something with a catchy name such as molly, and in fact it's poisonous synthetic chemicals made in labs in China. Overdoses from ingesting these types of chemicals are extremely dangerous and unforgiving. I commend the investigators from the DEA Rochester Resident Office, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine, U.S. Postal Service, and the New York State Police for doing all they can to keep our children and young adults safe from this poison."
"The defendants in this case thought they could safely import illegal drugs into the United States by using the Internet," said James C. Spero, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Buffalo. "Their arrests today clearly demonstrate that they were wrong. HSI will continue to work with our partners at the DEA, the New York State Police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to identify these criminal schemes and bring their perpetrators to justice."
"This international investigation shows one path by which massive quantities of synthetic drugs can enter our communities," said U.S. Attorney Hochul. "Both law enforcement and the public must continue to be vigilant as we together work towards keeping this and like substances - which can be deadly - out of the area."
"The Postal Service is in the business of moving the mail and has no interest in being the unwitting accomplice to anyone using the U.S. Mail to distribute illegal drugs," said Kevin Niland, Postal Inspector in Charge, Boston Division. "This case provides a perfect example of what happens when various law enforcement agencies pool their resources and expertise to achieve a common goal---protect US citizens, many of which are just teens or young adults, from the perils of illegal and dangerous drugs."
Methylone has become an increasingly popular "club drug" causing users to experience feelings very similar to "ecstasy." The New York City Medical Examiner has confirmed that two young people, including Jeffrey Russ of Greece, N.Y., who died at the Electric Zoo festival on Randalls Island over Labor Day weekend, took lethal mixtures of Methylone and MDMA.
The criminal complaint is the culmination of an investigation on the part of the special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian R. Crowell, New York Division; Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James C. Spero; the United States Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Kevin Niland, Inspector in Charge, Boston Division; the United States Border Patrol, under the direction of Patrol Agent in Charge Chris Buskey; and the New York State Police, under the direction of Major Mark Koss.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.