ANCHORAGE,Alaska-Seven alleged members of a Southcentral Alaska drug ring have been indicted on federal charges, after prosecutors say they imported thousands of dollars in “bath salts” from China that killed one of their associates in South Anchorage earlier this year.
Court documents identify the man who died with only the initials “MGS,” a move Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Bradley says is meant to protect his privacy. According to Bradley, he was between 18 and 21 years old when he died of methylone intoxication on April 15.
According to Bradley methylone, also known by street names including “molly” and “M1,” is a common substitute for the party drug Ecstasy. While methylone-based “bath salts” were declared illegal under federal law in October 2011, they remain legal in China.
“They are advertised as being safe and legal, but they are obviously neither safe nor legal -- although they are chemically similar to Ecstasy,” Bradley said.
The 22-count indictment (PDF) in the methylone distribution ring names Wasilla residents Robin Gattis, 19, and Shane O’Hare, 23; Palmer residents Chad Cameron, 18, and Bren Marx, 20; Anchorage residents Kevin Rupp, 21, and Haylee Hays, 19; and Soldotna resident Stephen Kimbrell, 20. Gattis -- identified by The Associated Press as the son of state Rep.-elect Lynn Gattis, elected in November -- is described as “the leader and organizer of the conspiracy.”
“Robin Gattis is charged with distributing methylone in April 2012, resulting in the death of MGS on or about April 15,” prosecutors wrote in a Monday statement on the case. “Gattis is also charged with four counts of unlawfully importing methylone. Gattis, O’Hare, and Rupp are charged with possession of methylone with intent to distribute, and Gattis, Rupp, Marx, Kimbrell, and Cameron are charged with attempted possession of methylone with intent to distribute.”
In addition to the distribution charges, several members of the group also face charges related to the alleged purchases of foreign drugs.
“Gattis, Cameron, Hays, and Kimbrell are all charged with international money laundering, based on allegations that they wired money to China via Western Union to pay for methylone shipments,” prosecutors wrote. “The indictment alleges that Gattis used persons under age 18 to send money to China to buy methylone, and asked friends and associated to allow him to use their addresses to receive shipments.”
According to the indictment, the group used Western Union money orders to buy methylone from China, which was shipped to Alaska via U.S. Postal Service Express Mail as well as commercial shipper DHL. The drugs were allegedly distributed from September 2011 through July 2012.
The indictment says Gattis would purchase methylone powder from China, at about $4 to $6 per gram, then encapsulate it for sale in Alaska at $10 to $15 per 15-milligram capsule. Discounts were available for bulk purchases, however, and capsules were often distributed without any exchange of funds.
“(Gattis) gave the drugs to his closest associates, including (Cameron, Rupp and MGS), for a reduced rate, for free, or in tacit exchange for services such as wiring money, picking up packages of drugs, or transporting drugs,” prosecutors wrote. “Most of the customers and other recipients receiving methylone from (Gattis) were under the age of 21.”
According to prosecutors, Gattis learned in September 2011 that methylone would soon become illegal and responded by stockpiling the drug, wiring Western Union funds to China himself and also enlisting fellow members of the ring -- as well as at least two minors -- to send money as well.
In a Sept. 29, 2011 email, prosecutors say Gattis tells a Chinese supplier he’d pay “over a thousand dollars” for more methylone, as the Drug Enforcement Agency moved toward criminalizing the drug.
“I just want to place my order and I’ve been working on it all this week,” Gattis allegedly wrote. “If I can’t do it today I don’t think I’ll be able to ever do it because of the ban.”
Beginning with a $346 order for 50 grams of methylone later that day, the indictment alleges that Gattis and his associates paid a total of $6,176 for 1.7 kilograms of the drug in seven orders, placed through Jan. 22, 2012 and sent to various addresses in Southcentral Alaska.
A $186 order on Feb. 1 first brought the group into contact with the law, when a package containing 22 grams of methylone was intercepted and led Alaska State Troopers to arrest Gattis and Marx. State charges against the two were dismissed, however, when authorities realized the package contained not Ecstasy but methylone -- which wasn’t illegal under Alaska law.
According to the indictment, a Feb. 28 email from Gattis relayed the news to a Chinese supplier.
“The last package you sent was intercepted by homeland security and I was arrested,” Gattis allegedly wrote. “Is there any way I can have it resent to a different name and address or something if I found one?”
After placing a replacement order for the seized 22 grams on Feb. 29 and an additional $500 order for 150 grams of methylone on April 2, prosecutors say Gattis, MGS and others gathered at a Wasilla address to encapsulate the drug. MGS then sent a series of text messages advertising the capsules’ availability.
“At one point (MGS) sent the message: ‘We just capped a thousand mollys from a quarter pound,’” prosecutors wrote.
At an April 15 party at MGS’ home on the 8400 block of Lake Otis Parkway in Anchorage hosted by him and Gattis, MGS allegedly sent Gattis two text messages.
“Can you bring down twob (sic) more we need to talk,” MGS allegedly wrote. “Two last ones… Pleasde (sic).”
According to prosecutors, Gattis fled the scene rather than summon help when he realized that MGS was dying due to methylone intoxication, instead telling someone to check on him at the home.
“Upon arrival, the person discovered (MGS) to be unresponsive and called 911,” prosecutors wrote. “Emergency medical services personnel responded and determined that (MGS) was dead.”
Prosecutors say MGS’ death prompted the federal investigation into the methylone ring, as well as an April 16 email from Gattis to his supplier.
“My best friend took the M1 I got and died last night, we think it was a reaction with tylenol and he took too much or something but people have been saying it feels different from last time,” Gattis allegedly wrote. “I’m going to throw away the rest and I don’t think I’ll be ordering from you again, thank you for your service though, and if there’s any way I can get my money refunded it would help a lot in the coming months, but you don’t have to.”
The issues between Gattis and his suppliers had apparently been patched up by May, however, with at least four deliveries being paid in the next few months. At least two of the orders -- a $420 order on June 26 for 130 grams of methylone, and a $1,000 order for 850 grams on July 16 -- were intercepted by U.S. Customs officials, with the June 26 order never delivered but the July package allowed to proceed.
Shortly before Gattis, Cameron and Kimbrell were arrested on July 30, prosecutors say Hays texted Gattis about the distribution of the package.
“No stupid (expletive) Like bring back what you said you would! I want my (expletive)!” Hays allegedly wrote.
“That’s insultingly retarded I live with you,” Gattis allegedly wrote back.
The charge of distribution resulting in death against Gattis carries a sentence ranging from a 20-year minimum of life in prison, with each of the indictment’s other 20 charges carrying 20-year maximum sentences.
Various agencies investigated the case, including Homeland Security Investigations, the DEA, APD, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Mat-Su Drug Unit
By Chris Klint and The Associated Press, Channel 2 News : 3:39 p.m. AKST, December 17, 2012
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Seven People Indicted in Fatal 'Bath Salts' Distribution Ring