DEA ARRESTS MAN IN WEB DRUG STING
A man arrested in a nationwide crackdown on illegal Internet drug
sales has been linked to one overdose death, a near fatality in
Norfolk and numerous sales to Hampton Roads Navy personnel, federal
agents announced Thursday. The Drug Enforcement Administration
released the results of "Operation Web Tryp," an investigation that
targeted Internet sites selling "research chemicals" that were
actually generic equivalents of hallucinogenic drugs such as Ecstasy
and Foxy Moxy.
Part of the dragnet was the result of an investigation launched more
than two years ago by Navy investigators in Norfolk into the sale of
so-called designer drugs.
Three men, including two sailors, were convicted and are in prison as
a result of the investigation.
That case led to Wednesday's arrest of David Linder, 50, of Arizona
on a warrant from Norfolk's federal court charging him with conspiracy
to distribute Foxy.
Linder is expected to be extradited to Norfolk to face the charge.
Although charged only with the drug offense, Linder could face more
serious charges when a federal grand jury begins hearing evidence in
the April 2002 overdose of an 18-year-old man in Hancock, N.Y., who
died after consuming a "research chemical " obtained from Linder's Web
site, the DEA said. Agents said they also have evidence of three other
people who became violently ill, in Hampton Roads and elsewhere, after
obtaining drugs from the site. Linder operated a Web site called
www.pondman.nu, which sold landscaping supplies. A hyperlink on the
site led to a page titled "Research Chemicals," according to a
complaint filed against Linder in federal court. That Web page offered
for sale a variety of chemicals, each developed to mimic the effects
of Ecstasy and other hallucinogens, the complaint says. The Web site
was active as of Monday but has since been shut down. The site also
offered a naturally occurring plant substance called Harmine, which
alone is harmless but which, when mixed with another chemical, forms a
powerful hallucinogenic called Ayahuasca, first used by South American
indigenous people, DEA officials said.
Federal agents and prosecutors in Norfolk declined to comment on the
case, but a DEA official in Washington said Operation Web Tryp should
signal to other Internet drug pushers that they could be put out of
business as well. "The Internet has become the street corner for many
users and traffickers," DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy said in a
statement Thursday. "Today's action will hopefully prevent future
deaths and overdoses." Besides Linder, eight other suspects were
arrested this week in New York, Georgia and California. Six Web sites
have been shut down, and agents are tracing customer e-mails to those
who purchased chemicals from those sites. Linder is accused of
supplying chemicals to Richard L. Klecker, a former sailor who told
Navy investigators that he purchased the drugs through Linder's Web
site, court records say.
The records say that Klecker pressed the powder into Foxy pills and
sold them to Navy personnel and others in the Norfolk area. Typically,
according to the DEA, the drug was sold at rave parties.
Klecker was arrested in 2002 along with another former sailor ,
Michael D. Wolfe, and Timothy C. Luken, who had worked for Sentara
Norfolk General Hospital. Luken pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy
charge and was sentenced last fall to 70 months in prison.
His sentence later was cut in half for assistance that he provided to
investigators in the case, court records show. Wolfe pleaded guilty to
a similar charge and is serving a 48-month prison sentence. Klecker
also pleaded guilty but challenged the government's argument that Foxy
was an illegal controlled substance.
At the time of the case, Foxy was not listed as an illegal substance
by the DEA. It is now. Klecker took his case to the U.S. Supreme
Court, but the court refused to hear it. He is serving an 84-month
Officials said the Klecker case was instrumental in getting the DEA to
list Foxy as an illegal drug.