This is the tale of a character named " eleusis". Think of it as a work of fiction in the first person by a humble narrator, and if it seems a bit strange, remember that only the truth itself is stranger than fiction. Eleusis, for those of you unfamiliar, was the name of an ancient Greek city were the Spring Mysteries were held: a city-wide festival where consumption of mind-altering substances was the central activity in a celebration of the return of Spring.
Organic chemistry intrigued me. It tempted me with its secret language of symbols, its demand for (nearly) blind faith in unseen collisions. MDMA intrigued me as well, with its strangely universal experience, its ability to make even the hardest soul empathic. I had tried neither organic chemistry nor MDMA, so I decided to try both. In the Spring of 1994, appropriately enough, I began my chemical journey and by late winter I was already posting to a.d.c. It took so much work to learn how to make MDMA that I decided I was going to share what I learned so that others would not have to repeat my labors. However, I had serious misgivings about sharing because my quest was one for knowledge and experience while, I knew, for most others it would be for purely economic reasons. You can see my struggling in practically ever post I made, the schizophrenic vacillations in tone between erudite dissertation and egomaniacal evisceration. Though I knew my posts would be put to use by those less scrupulous, I posted nonetheless for the benefit of those who were. And now onto the experience
I broke every rule in the book, and I did so knowingly. I ordered glassware from Aldrich with my real name and credit card. I ordered chemicals from all over with my real name and money orders. I had boxes shipped to my parents (and, later, my co-conspirator's). I spent hundreds of hours in the library and posted everything I found that sounded remotely useful to the process of making MDMA. I conducted my experiments in a freakin' apartment complex, of all places, but none of these mistakes got me busted.
I did all of this in blind faith because the first time I took MDMA was my own.
Days after the reference for converting safrole to isosafrole was sent to me I made my first batch of MDMA, strictly by the book (Shulgin's, that is). Mid-November of ' 94 a good friend of mine and I took 110mg each from that batch and rocketed into an internal space beyond description, but not beyond comprehension. She was suitably impressed, I was ecstatic (pardon the pun), and we just happened to be doing it at a friend of hers that dealt the stuff. Needless to say, that was the beginning of a very good business relationship.
Fast forward a year, give or take a few months.
And the next question is:
So why did I leave a.d.c.?
Perhaps some of you were present back then. If so, then you probably remember a vociferous bastard named Yogi Shan who thought eleusis was about as full of shit as the Augean Stables (c.f. -Hercules 12 labors). Well, a couple of weeks prior to the fit hitting the Shan, so to speak, I had visited a friend Texas and while there I bought a bunch of fairly innocuous chemicals. I packed them up in a box and went down to the local Mailboxes, etc- to have them shipped back.
The box never made it.
After 2 weeks, I was convinced that it had been confiscated, and likely sent to either the DEA, the DOT or the BATF, so I used the ruse of Yogi's incessant criticism of "eleusis" bad chemistry" to bid my farewell to a.d.c., as it was clearly time for me to quit the game.
This, of course, meant that ZWITTERION had to leave too, since even if he and I weren't the same person (and we were), he wouldn't have anyone to pick on anymore (didn't you notice that ZWITTERION only seemed to try out the things that eleusis posted?). As a side note, if you find it hard to swallow that ZWIT and eleusis were the same individual because of the wild difference in writing styles, keep in mind that I *am* an English major.
So what happened to "eleusis" after that?
I packed up my lab in a blind paranoid fury. I canceled my icubed email account. I encrypted and compressed every computer file, e-mail etc that was even remotely related to drug chemistry. I woke up every morning before 5:00am, rumored to be the time the DEA would strike if they came a knockin'. But I also knew that the paper trail was immense, that even if there wasn't anything left in my apartment when the DEA came crashing in that I would still have a lot of explaining to do. Then there was the realization that if I was under surveillance that they would already know where I put everything. I struggled to wipe my fingerprints from everything I had ever touched, but I couldn't bring myself to throw away nearly $12,000 in glassware, chemicals and equipment. I just couldn't *destroy* everything, though I *knew* that I should. Besides, how does one get rid of 11kg of Safrole or 20L of THF? I'm no tree-hugger, but I'm not so environmentally unconscious that I\rquote d pour shit like that down the drain or onto the ground.
Months went by with no sign of the DEA. Slowly but surely my co-conspirator convinced me to start up again. She used the very persuasive argument that since I had started manufacturing, no one would buy anything else (I was a fanatic about quality, I never cut my MDMA, and I made sure that every dose was 100-110mg for the best possible experience). It really didn\rquote t take much convincing, though, because once you start, I don't believe you can stop until you are *caught*. It is too seductive, way too seductive. Viddy well, little brothers, viddy well (c.f.- A Clockwork Orange).
So I started up again, but I tried to make the lab as spartan as possible - no unrelated chemicals on the premises, no massive quantities of Class I precursors, and definitely no product for any longer than the time it took to dry. It was futile, of course, and as I came to realize that I took the attitude of 'fuck it'. I cranked out a 2000 dose batch of 2-CB and gave it all away. I mustered up a 16g batch of Mescaline and gave that away too. TMA, DMT, 4-Methylaminorex, et. Al., just to know that I could and to see what they were like.
On June 23, at around 5:00pm, the phone rang. It was Special Agent Higgins of the DEA. He was at my parents house and wanted to ask me a few questions about all the chemicals I had purchased. I told him I would be right over, hung up, then looked at my apartment. Chemicals everywhere, glassware everywhere. There was no way to destroy enough of it to matter in the time frame allotted. I did destroy the twin 100g batches of MDP-2-P that were just starting (literally 15 minutes prior) and dump out ~500g of methylamine HCl (yes, made by decomposing Hexamine) but nothing else. I just hoped that I would be able to smoothly talk my way out of the problem - at least for long enough to be able to destroy everything else.
When I arrived at my parents house there were a dozen agents wandering around with guns, bullet proof vests, the whole enchilada. They were sorting through my old room and found maybe two documents related to chemistry and, unfortunately, a bottle of sodium in petroleum ether that I had long ago forgotten. They told me that they had all of my receipts from a certain chemical company that I used quite often and asked what I did with all of those chemicals. Well, I felt pretty confident then because I never ordered anything listed or even terribly suspicious from that company - I synthesized all of the naughty precursors myself - so I calmly answered " I make photographic developers with them." They then asked "Are you saying you never made crystal meth, crank, methamphetamine, whatever you want to call it with these chemicals" and I easily said "no" followed by "I don't think any of those chemicals are used to make meth, otherwise how would I have been able to purchase them?"
They didn't like that one bit. No sirree. Not one bit. That's when they pulled out the big guns (metaphorically) and asked if I knew anyone in Houston. The sweat started to pour. I knew what they were after. I said "yes, I have a friend out there". They asked what I thought happened when the box I shipped never made it and I said "I figured UPS confiscated it for improper packaging but when I called about it they said they had no record of the shipment so then I figured it was just lost." Then they asked the killer question, the one that made me give up because I knew I was busted.
"Do you know [blank]?"
I said, "yes, she's an ex-girlfriend of mine."
"Well we have [blank] in custody right now."
"So I'll repeat my earlier question, did you ever use this to make crystal, crank, meth, whatever?"
"No, I never made crystal meth, I think it's a horrible drug."
"Then what did you make with it, [blank] said ' ---- ' "
"Alright, alright. I made MDMA."
Consent was then asked for to search my apartment, under the threat that I would be arrested if I said no and they would get a warrant anyway. I knew this would happen because of what POP-I had told me so I signed my life away. Agents were standing by at my apartment and busted in the door as soon as my pen hit the paper. I was cuffed and taken to my apartment to identify the contents as mine (a formality) and then I was taken to DEA Holding. Apparently seconds after I was taken away the reporters arrived. My driver's license picture was on the 6:00 news. The entire block I lived on was evacuated. Rumors started flying and all of my friends, of which only a very few knew what I did, started calling each other.
To top it all off, my ulcer started giving me a real fit (the ulcer was a byproduct of living 2 years in intense fear of that very moment).
At DEA Holding I received the good cop/bad cop treatment. It's just like the movies, kids. Just like it. One was threatening to kick in my balls if I didn't tell the truth, the other was saying "there, there, he's *trying* to tell the truth, give him a chance." It was sickening (apparently, [blank] actually did get sick because they asked "you're not going to puke all over the floor like [blank], are you?")
The interrogation was rather brief, consisting only of:
1) How much x did I make? -about 800g I said (based on quick mental calculations of what was consumed from the chemicals I knew were on the premises)
2) How often did I take it? - 3 times (close enough to the truth that it doesn't matter)
3) Did I sell it -only to [blank]
4) She said you split the money 75-25, how much money did you make? -about 80 grand (consistent with my earlier answer of 800g)
5) How often did you make it? -about every other week
6) How much in each batch? -28g
7) Who taught you how to make it? -I taught myself (true)
8) Did you get the recipe from the internet? -no, from the library (cringe at the word 'recipe', we ain't bakin' brownies here, boys)
And that was pretty much it. I was then transported to the Orient Road Jail. On the way there I enjoyed a most memorable conversation with the agent:
"So this is pretty much the end of the road for me, eh?"
"No, Tim Allen from Home Improvement got busted for trafficking 2 keys of coke. He copped a plea, turned in a few people and look how well he's done."
"Yeah, but Time Allen was a dealer, and I'm a chemist. The buck pretty much stops here. I'm top of the food chain. There's no further up you can go, there's no bigger prize than busting someone like me."
The worst thing about jail (so far) is that it's so fucking boring someone like me would go insane within weeks. I was so bored I counted every tile on the walls of the various rooms I was shuffled between (1,240 in the "airlock" , 2,278 in my "pod" ). Oh yes, and then there was the food--Being that I am a vegetarian, it was completely inedible. Breakfast was gravy and an apple. Yes, gravy. My cellmate got a hellacious case of diarrhea from it - so bad he actually shit his britches.
The next morning I had my bond hearing in front of a Federal Magistrate. I was chained to two other people by the hands and feet. Reporters crowded the pews watching my every expression. My mother was there with one of her friends from work. At that moment I knew that I had truly fucked up big time; that I had let down every one that said I was a genius that could have done anything I put my mind to. What did my clever brain get me? Shackled to a health plan embezzler and an illegal alien bank robber.
A private lawyer offered his services for free (my case was extremely novel - only the second MDMA manufacturer in that district of Florida). The prosecutor moved to have my bond denied and for me to be detained in Morgan Street Jail (which makes Orient Road look like a fucking resort, btw). My lawyer and I quickly consulted the federal statutes and found that what applies to methamphetamine does not apply to MDMA, so that got me out of that dire predicament. Bond was set for $75,000 and my mother put up her house to secure it. Had I not bonded out, I am quite certain I would not be alive to type this. I later received the background documentation on the DEA's "setup" of the sting against my co-conspirators and me. What was extremely interesting to note from this was that the DEA conducted "three trash pickups at [my parent's] residence and 1 trash pickup at [blank]' s. "Of course they didn't find anything because I didn't live with my parents, but I always assumed that they would be able to tell that I didn't live there. Funny thing is, they were limited to investigating *where the chemicals were actually sent*.
Another consequence of my arrest is that most of my possessions were seized on the premise that they were either paid for with drug manufacturing profits or they were actually used to make drugs. I could merely rattle off a list of interesting (and pricey) items that would break a materialist's heart, but the point here isn't to impress you with what I owned, rather, to illustrate that there isn't a lot of logic involved in the seizure process. Furthermore, when they do seize something you have to take them to court (in a separate civil action) to get the stuff back. This will cost you beaucoup bucks and you'll probably lose anyway (this is what my lawyer said, and he specializes in Federal criminal & civil cases). Fortunately, you can sometimes *ask* for certain things back, and if you were cooperative, they will honor the requests. Other times they will just outright give you things back. For instance, they seized about $10,000 in electronic test equipment that had absolutely nothing to do with making drugs and, besides a $3,000 digital storage oscilloscope, wasn't even paid for with drug profits. However, a 1991 Ducati 900SS motorcycle, an obvious *toy* that was paid for with drug profits, was given back to me for unknown reasons (they initially seized it but later said to my lawyer, and I quote, "we want to give it back to him"). My 1988 Mazda RX-7 they ignored, saying that it was "a piece of junk" - this was where I typically kept the "Lonely Laptop on the Fringe" as well as a few other neat toys. Had I known that they weren't interested in "junky" cars (mine had some rust as well as 100k+ miles) then I would have stashed my money in it, instead of a fire safe that they naturally cracked open immediately.
Side comment: The DEA chemist said "this is the most technologically advanced lab I have ever seen." Well, that was something to be proud of, anyway.
A couple weeks after I was out on bond the DEA found out about the storage unit I used and which had been rented out by one of [blank]'s roomates for me. It was quite a coincidence because the day before I had told my lawyer about it and asked him what I should do. He said "do nothing and see if they find it." Well, found it they did. It took some fast talking on my part to keep [blank]'s roomate from getting arrested as well. Anyway, when they raided my apartment lab and found all of that electronic equipment they assumed I was a dangerous sonuvabitch who booby-trapped the storage unit. They called my lawyer and me to ask what was in it. I gave them very coy, circumspect answers implying that it had been so long since I was out there that I couldn't "exactly" remember what was in it. This was a good move on my part because it heightened their suspicion it was booby-trapped to the point that they offered me immunity for the contents as long as I told them what was there. Suddenly my memory reappeared and I rattled off about a dozen items before they decided that HazMat needed to be called in and so the circus started anew. Good thing I got immunity because inside there was a complete portable lab (I called it S.C.R.A.P. for Self Contained Reaction APparratus), a generator, a rotary evaporator, about 400 different chemicals and some small amounts of 2-CB and Mescaline.
The legal morass surrounding a manufacturing case is unbelievable. I could go on for dozens of pages about it, but instead I will summarize using the advantage of hindsight.
There are many ways one can be prosecuted for suspected drug manufacturing, and the safest route the prosecutor can take is to just stick you with the precursors unless you were caught actually making it and/or you had product on the premises. I was caught with nothing being made and nothing on site, but the prosecutor was greedy and charged [blank] and me with "Conspiracy to Manufacture MDMA, a Controlled Substance Analogue" anyway. I waived my right to a grand jury to be nice, and because there was no point in being formally charged since they had enough evidence to convict me of *something*. I was then offered a plea agreement that, of course, gave me nothing except taking away my right to appeal. My lawyer advised me to plead guilty, but NOT sign the plea agreement. This is known as "pleading open\rdblquote and shows that you accept responsibility for your actions without the potentially damning loss of your right to appeal an unfavorable sentence. I don't regret this at all even though it royally pissed off the prosecutor because I still get the 3 level reduction for pleading (more on this in a moment). However, my pleading open made the prosecutor so mad that he then filed a motion to have me detained prior to my sentencing (i.e. - thrown back in jail). The detainment hearing was, fortunately, quite laughable because I had been complying with all of my pre-trial bond restrictions (no drugs in the urine, no arrests, I had a "real" job and was enrolled in school), still, if the judge was in a bad mood that day it could have been a trip to nasty, razor-wire engulfed Morgan Street for me.
I was then "interviewed" by a Federal probation officer to "get my side of the story" , find out my background, assets, etc to make what's called a Presentence Report (PSR). Strangely enough, what I said and **** said pretty well matched, though she had really low-balled the estimate of MDMA I made (bless her!). Another part of the PSR is what the production capacity of the lab was according to the DEA chemist. The chemicals they considered were:
1.8kg Hexamine (equiv. to 3.5kg methylamine HCl)
This gave them a yield, based loosely on my "notes" , of between 4.8 and 6.0kg. They, of course, made some critical mistakes like not considering other necessary reagents involved, nor the fact that 3 moles of methylamine must be present for every 1 mole of MDP-2-P for the reductive amination to have a fighting chance of working. So the big argument at my sentencing, then, will be pitting my calculations against theirs. For this, I have to hire an expert witness (i.e. - a chemistry professor) to do the talking for me and to lend "credibility" to the whole deal (an expert witness is also necessary if you wish to appeal). Unfortunately, none of the professors I have attempted to contact thus far wish to speak to me (gee, what a surprise!).
Now what does all this mean, and what does it all entail?
Federal drug cases are prosecuted according to the "level" you are at. The base offense level is determined by either:
a) the amount of drugs you made
b) the amount of drugs you could have made with the chemicals on hand
c) the amount of drugs you made + the amount of precursors you had
We can derive "a" by calculating backwards from the amount of hexamine I had consumed from the brand new container found, which gives an amount of 766g. We can derive "b" as above, which based on methylamine would be 1.8kg and based on Formic Acid would be 377g. The offense level for "c" is then based on the amount of precursors like Safrole, Isosafrole and Methylamine on hand plus a 2 level increase for drugs actually having been made.
The base offense level for "a" is 18, "b" is either 21 or 16, respectively, and "c", the worst, is 22. Level 22 is 41-51 months in jail, 21 is 33-41, 18 is 27-33 and 16 is 21-27. Take 3 levels off for acceptance of responsibility and the possible range of time is 10 months (level 13) to 33 months (level 19).
So that is where I am right now: somewhere between 10 and 33months. And what if the judge completely ignores my arguments and sentences me for the maximum quantity estimated (6kg)? 63-78 months.
My lawyer and I are not quite sure which of the above routes (a, b, or c) is appropriate because of the PSR, which only considered the amount of drugs I could have made with the chemicals on hand. I suppose I will find out when I am sentenced on Feb. 20, 1998.
What can be learned from my experience, and what are the ramifications?
Good questions, and I'll give my best guesses.
First, it is rather apparent from my interrogation and the investigation thus far that the DEA either *does not know about a.d.c.* or they *do not care*. Yes, friends, hard as it may be to believe, outside of the "did you get the recipe off the internet" question, they didn't ask me jack shit about the net.
Second, I think it is rather obvious from my tale that shipping chemicals via UPS is not a bright thing to do, but why did I do it in the first place? Because I shipped all sorts of crap through *Fed-Ex* all the time (what an appropriate name) so I figured because of the volume of shipments both places did that UPS wouldn't bother opening up a package unless it was leaking or stunk. Wrong.
Third, chemical supply houses *will* ask you some fairly detailed and probing questions about what you are up to. If you don't look straight-up, white-bread (not white as in race, white as in bland), middle America then don't even *think* about showing up somewhere in person. If you want to play the "fake company ordering chemicals" game be aware that they will expect a company check (what, no bank account for the business? Sorry). Also be aware that should you get caught and you were using a fake business to order chemicals that can be considered "obstruction of justice" and will merit you a 2 level upward adjustment should you be found guilty. As well, don't buy your all of your chemicals and glassware from one place, and never ever even *ask* about compounds that are heavily watched, scheduled or listed.
Fourth, if you are caught, try to find out what the agents know/don't know before you start spilling the beans. In my case I played very innocent with them until I found out that [blank] was arrested with 50 capsules of my product (they told her that they already had me in custody and that I said blah-blah-blah, they do that sort of thing, btw). If it does seem like they've got a pretty solid lock on you, *be cooperative* - tell them the truth but don\rquote t get too detailed, all of the details will be debated during sentencing anyway, but being consistent from the moment you are arrested to the moment you are sentenced looks very good, indeed. As well, plead guilty but don't sign the plea agreement unless you are getting a good deal out of it (and you'll only be getting something good if you turn in other people, in which case you deserve to spend eternity in Cocytus (c.f. -Dante's Inferno)).
Fifth, never, I repeat, *never* throw out empty bottles, reaction byproducts, documentation, etc in the trash where you live. Take it to a dumpster far away, burn it, shred it, or whatever, but don't leave it in your trash. *I* didn't get caught because of this, but I *could have*. As well, assume your phones are tapped from day one so don't even talk "in code" about transactions with your "dealer[s]" . Always meet in public, and I don't mean in someone else's car, rather at a restaurant, cafe or bar.
Sixth, *where* you do it isn't so important as *how* you do it. I didn't get busted because my neighbors "smelled something funny" but then again, neither did I make methylamine (or MDMA, or MDP-2-P) in the middle of the day.
Seventh, don't tell anyone you wouldn't trust with your life what you are up to. I imagine the dumbest thing one could do would be to make a whole bunch of X and then invite some "friends" over to "try it out" while glassware and chemicals are everywhere, but I did just that several times and no one ever made the connection. Maybe my friends were dumb, and maybe yours will are too, but that's tempting fate with a little too much surety.
Eighth, make sure you have lawyer ahead of time that is familiar with federal and state drug cases. It is unreasonable to expect to find a lawyer who has handled drug *manufacturing* cases, but if you let them "know" ahead of time what you are interested in, and pay the requisite (and hefty) retainer, you'll be good to go if (when) the Man comes bustin' in. Your legal expenses for defending against a DEA levied manufacturing charge will be $15,000 plus, so keep that in mind.
Ninth, have someone else order the chemicals, if possible, but realize that THEY will be the ones that get the third-degree if caught. If you don't trust them with your life, and they haven't got nerves of steel, both of you will go down. Incidentally, I didn't have anyone else order the chemicals because I didn't feel I should place that sort of responsibility/burden on any of my friends (would you do that to one of yours? If so, maybe YOU aren't such a good friend).
Tenth. My biggest mistake wasn't me sending that package through UPS, nor starting product back up after it never made it, nor even deciding to make X in the first place. My mistake was not taking the time to make a huge amount quickly and then destroying everything afterwards. I should have blew out a kilogram or so then quit. 1kg is worth up to $100k and that should be enough to make anyone quite self-sufficient with proper investing and money management. Instead, I wanted to experiment with the process and find other ways of doing things as well as posting everything I found to a.d.c. I should have quit as soon as I succeeded but I couldn't resist the temptation to tweak. I can say "should-have" about a lot of things in this game, but that's the one I truly regret.
The song of the Sirens is irresistible. Those who hear it and have not been tied to the mast like Odysseus will perish among the rocks (c.f. - The Odyssey).