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Attorney General Brown and Mendocino County Sheriff Shut Down Ecstasy Ring

Nine Arrested, MDMA, LSD, Marijuana, Guns, and U.S. Currency Seized
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Contact: (415) 703-5837

MENDOCINO- Attorney General Edmund G. Brown along with the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Major Crimes Task Force today announced the arrest of nine people involved in a “dangerous drug ring” that operated ecstasy (MDMA) labs throughout Northern California.

“This drug ring, operating throughout northern California, posed a threat to people and the environment” Attorney General Brown said. “Today’s bust marks an end to the activities of this dangerous drug ring.”

In November 2008, the Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement teamed up with the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office after an anonymous tip alerted law enforcement agents of a possible MDMA lab operating in Mendocino County.

Agents monitored the suspected lab location and identified the cook as Jonathan Passel from El Cerrito. Passel was followed to several locations including: a residence in Willits and Redwood Valley, a warehouse in San Rafael, a residence in El Cerrito, a residence and warehouse in Oakland, and an extremely remote location in northwest Mendocino County.

On January 23, 2009, Agents from the Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, the Mendocino County Major Crimes Task Force, Santa Rosa Drug Enforcement Agency, West Contra Costa Narcotic Enforcement Team, Lake County Narcotics Task Force, California Highway Patrol, Sonoma Narcotics Task Force, Ukiah Police Department, Willits Police Department, and the Marin County Major Crimes Task Force served nine warrants in four counties.

Jonathan Passel, 46, and Mia Miller, 44, were arrested at the lab site in Mendocino County. Agents seized a .45 handgun, thousands of dollars worth of chemicals, commercial grade laboratory glassware, and over one-hundred gallons of toxic, poisonous, and flammable liquids and solids. Hazardous chemicals and laboratory equipment filled forty large barrels with an estimated disposal cost of $35,000.

Very little waste product was found at the lab site, raising concerns of illegal dumping of toxic, poisonous, and flammable substances in the surrounding area. Illegal dumping of chemical waste can be extremely dangerous to the land, animals, and people living near a dump site.

“This is the best example I’ve ever seen of a 3-month investigation being coordinated by multiple agencies and coming to a very successful conclusion.” Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said.

Also seized were approximately 44 kilograms of MDMA (ecstacy), worth an estimated $1,936,000.00,

Paul Passel, 64, Jonathan Passel’s brother, was arrested in El Cerrito but was cited at the scene due to medical issues. Agents seized 1 ½ pounds of marijuana and lab glassware.

Phillip Crosby, 35, Jared Coil, 28, Kayla Kashtiban, 19, and Justin Spilis, 21, were arrested in Willits. Agents seized 600 marijuana plants, LSD, MDMA, and several firearms.

Leon Haskell, 34, and Tappie Dufresne, 37, were arrested in Oakland. Agents seized approximately 44 kilos of MDMA, 28 pounds of psyliocibin mushrooms, 30 pounds of marijuana, and approximately $500,000 in cash.

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