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7 Held, Drugs Seized

Crime: Raids target a ring importing ketamine, also known as Special K, from Mexico into the U.S.

October 03, 2002|JESSICA GARRISON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — A cross-border ring that produced and distributed massive amounts of the drug ketamine, known on the rave circuit as Special K, has been broken up and its leaders arrested, officials said Wednesday.

After a two-year investigation and raids in the United States and Mexico, authorities arrested seven people and made some of the largest seizures ever of ketamine.

The drug, an animal tranquilizer that became popular among people for its hallucinatory effects, is also known as vitamin K, Super K and Kit Kat. Ketamine also has been used as a date-rape drug.

The investigation began in Simi Valley, after police arrested a suspect on suspicion of selling the drug in a health club. From there, investigators picked up a trail that led to a pharmaceutical manufacturing firm in Morelos, Mexico, called Laboratorios Ttokkyo and a Tijuana-based veterinary business called Granero de Oro, authorities said.

The federal indictment announced this week charges that Jorge Chevreuil Bravo, owner of Granero de Oro, and Dr. Francisco Molino, head of Ttokkyo, used an Internet Web site to sell ketamine to distributors across the United States. Neither man was authorized to export pharmaceuticals, but authorities said their network was believed to be responsible for 70% to 80% of the drug used illegally in the United States.

Authorities executed search warrants in New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Boston and San Diego. In Kansas, they seized 23,000 vials of the drug. Authorities in Mexico seized another 200,000 vials last week. The drug, which was declared a controlled substance by the U.S. government in 1999, is typically sold on the street in 10-millimeter vials for between $50 and $100 a vial, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Timothy Coughlin. In Southern California, authorities seized more than $500,000 in cash.

Bravo and Molino were arrested in Panama and transported to Miami in September. They will eventually be moved to San Diego, Coughlin said.

Three of the 10 indicted remain at large. The indictment charges the 10 with participating in a conspiracy to import and distribute ketamine, conspiracy to launder money, and possession of ketamine with intent to distribute. Bravo also is charged with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise.

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