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Drug-Tracking Device Is Hoax, Officials Say

January 25, 1996| From Associated Press

BEAUMONT, Texas — Schools, consumers and law enforcement agencies wasted more than $1 million on worthless devices marketed as able to detect hidden drugs or explosives, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

They said Quadro Corp. of Harleyville, S.C., has been barred temporarily from making, selling or distributing its Positive Molecular Locator, also known as a Quadro Tracker.

Company officials were ordered to appear in federal court next week to determine if the order should be made permanent. A criminal investigation of the company also was underway.

The black plastic box and its accessories, which together cost from $395 to $8,000, were fraudulently claimed to be able to safeguard property or livestock or even find missing golf balls, authorities said.

Brochures falsely claimed endorsement by federal law enforcement agencies and said the device could detect drugs "on or in a person, or even in the bloodstream."

"The only thing this accurately detects is your checkbook," said FBI agent Ronald W. Kelly.

About 1,000 of the devices are known to have been sold for a total of more than $1 million, said Mike Bradford, U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Texas.

"Our lawyer won't let us talk," Wade Quattlebaum, president of Quadro Corp., said Wednesday.

The Tracker is a plastic box a little smaller than a video cassette and can be attached to a belt. The user inserts into a slot a small card--known as a signature card--that purportedly contains a chip representing an illegal drug or some representation of the item to be detected.

The person then holds a companion device about the size of a television remote control to which a transistor radio antenna is attached that freely swings from right to left. The antenna then points toward the item being hunted, like an electronic divining rod.

Its manufacturers contend the static electricity produced in someone's body "charges the free-floating neutral electrons of the signature card with the major strength of the signal" and leads the person to the object.

But FBI Laboratory technicians and the Energy Department's Sandia National Laboratories both found the device to be nothing more than a hollow plastic box and the "chip" to be fake.

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