APR 28 – DEA Atlanta Field Division Special Agent in Charge Sherri F. Strange announced the culmination of “Operation Batman’s Brew”, the investigation of a national Gamma Butyrolactone (GBL) distribution organization. SAC Strange proudly stated that during the investigation Agents made, what is believed to be, the largest seizure of GBL in the United States, and dismantled the most extensive domestic GBL distribution network ever identified with tentacles that reached throughout at least 21 states.
SAC Strange explained that GBL is a List 1 chemical legitimately manufactured as an industrial solvent commonly used for degreasing engines and stripping wax from wood floors (i.e. bowling alleys and gym floors). GBL is an analog similar to Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), which is a Schedule 1 drug under federal law. When taken orally, GBL is converted by the human body to GHB. GBL is considered a Schedule 1 drug when it is sold with the intent of human consumption.
GHB is a potent drug that has been promoted variously as a sleep aid, sexual stimulant, and a steroid alternative. It is typically sold by the capful at dance clubs and “raves” for $5 - $25 a cap. Serious adverse effects include seizures, vomiting, slow breathing, slow heart rate, sudden and uncontrollable onset of sleep, coma, and death. GBL/GHB advocates claim the drugs stimulate production of human growth hormones and thus produce muscle mass and weight loss. Body builders believe the substances to be anabolic agents for quick recovery between workouts.
GBL and GHB are both used by sexual predators as “date-rape” drugs. In liquid form these drugs are clear and odorless, thus easily added to drinks. Victims frequently are not aware that they ingested a drug at all. The drugs induce drowsiness often to the point of becoming unconscious. Due to induced memory loss, the victim may not be aware of the attack until many hours after it occurred. The drugs are eliminated from the body quickly, and not detectable by blood or urine tests after 8-12 hours, so there may be little physical evidence to support the claim that the drugs were used to facilitate an assault.
On January 28, 2004, DEA Nashville and DEA Detroit arrested Bruce Michael Wayne (AKA Batman) in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. A warrant for Wayne’s arrest was obtained after it was determined he had been supplying a health food store in Detroit, Michigan with quantities of GBL. A number of individuals became sick after consuming the product. Wayne was arrested on an outstanding warrant issued out of the Eastern District of Michigan for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute GBL. Wayne gave agents consent to search a storage unit that he was renting in Murfreesboro, TN. A search of the unit revealed 1,115 (32 ounce) bottles, approximately 278 gallons of GBL.
As the investigation continued, Douglas Mills, of Atlanta, Georgia, was identified as the ultimate source of the GBL. Mills had been supplying Wayne with large shipments of GBL since early 1999. Wayne typically ordered 50 cases, containing 12 bottles each, of GBL per month from Mills. Wayne shipped large quantities of GBL by UPS to health food stores, gyms and individuals located in: Florida, Washington, New Mexico, Indiana, Alabama, Minnesota, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Michigan, Texas, Colorado, Kansas, New York, New Jersey, California, Maryland and Nevada. In order to avoid detection by law enforcement, Mills and Wayne shipped the GBL as janitorial supplies.
On February 11, 2005, DEA Nashville and DEA Atlanta conducted a consensual search of a storage unit located in Woodstock, GA belonging to Mills. Twenty-eight (28) 55-gallon drums of GBL and four 55-gallon drums of 1,4 Butanediol (another GHB analog) were seized from the unit. Based upon the investigation, DEA determined that the GBL drums had the capacity to produce 21,560 gallons of GBL for consumption. The 1,4 Butanediol drums had the capacity to produce 3,080 gallons for consumption. The approximate retail value of the GBL and 1,4 Butanediol was $3,986,880.00. This is believed to be the largest seizure of GBL in the United States.
On April 28, 2005, the source of supply for the GBL, Doug Mills pleaded guilty in the Middle District of Tennessee to a fifteen count information to include conspiracy, distribution and money laundering charges. The defendant has agreed to forfeit $1,000,000.00 in drug proceeds as part of the plea agreement. Wayne pleaded guilty earlier and is currently a post-arrest fugitive. A total of $257,000.00 in assets was seized from Wayne. To date, fourteen defendants have been arrested throughout the United States.
DEA Special Agent in Charge Strange praised all the law enforcement agencies that worked together on the investigation. She stated, “This drug investigation is a prime example of good police work conducted by multiple federal entities in concert with our state and local counterparts. When we pool all our different resources, areas of expertise, and dedication, it’s always going to be a force multiplier with a positive outcome for the communities.”
SAC Strange continued, “Today we are all satisfied to say that a huge dent has been made in the availability of this poison – GBL. I find it outrageous that these products were sold in health food stores and gyms where people are looking to improve upon the well being of their bodies. We must continue to educate the public, and especially our children, with all the real facts about drugs and what they do to the human body, so they can make their own intelligent decisions based on the facts and not lies. Drug dealers promote the spread of misinformation, touting the supposed benefits of using drugs to entice, so they can line their own pockets. Quite simply, they are money hungry and give no thought to the damage, devastation, and death they create. We and our partners in the law enforcement community remain steadfast in our mission to protect our great country against the cancer of drug use.”
The case was investigated by the DEA’s Nashville Task Force, DEA Detroit Office, Food and Drug Administration, and the Pinellas County (Florida) Sheriff’s Department. DEA offices throughout the United States participated in the investigation. The Nashville DEA Task Force is comprised of members of the Murfreesboro Police Department, Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department, the 18th and 21st Judicial Drug Task Force, Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, Lewisberg Police Department, Lebanon Police Department, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service. Assistant United States Attorney Paul M. O’Brien, for the Middle District of Tennessee, and Assistant United States Attorney John O’Brien, Eastern District of Michigan, are the assigned prosecutors.
For further information, please contact DEA Group Supervisor Ruth Porter-Whipple at 404-893-7000.