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Wednesday, April 1, 1998

Prosecutors announce indictments in Mexican prescription drug ring

By MARK BABINECK / Associated Press Writer

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -- A multistate ring for distributing Mexican prescription drugs across the country was targeted Tuesday in federal charges unsealed against 23 people.

Prosecutors said the 15-count indictment resulted from the largest investigation of its kind.

U.S. Attorney Paul E. Coggins said the ring has been responsible since 1993 for the entry of "hundreds of thousands" of packages of anabolic steroids, Valium, Ritalin and Rohypnol, also known as the "date rape" drug because it's been used to render unsuspecting victims unconscious and vulnerable to assault.

"Rape drugs are a national concern," Attorney General Janet Reno said in a statement. "The partnership on display today demonstrates exactly the type of response that is needed."

Six searches in Texas and two more in Utah were conducted Tuesday in connection with the March 25 indictments. Coggins said 14 of the defendants were in custody Tuesday afternoon, including the alleged kingpin distributor, John Drayton Kingston.

According to the indictment, the drugs emanated from the Juarez, Mexico, pharmacy of Juan Arturo Yu Jr., a U.S. citizen living in nearby El Paso, Texas. Prosecutors contend Yu imported the drugs into the United States, where Kingston and other handled distribution.

Yu remained at large Tuesday. Kingston was in custody in Midland awaiting an initial court appearance Wednesday.

Authorities charge that Kingston and other conspirators forwarded the drugs to dealers in Utah, Florida, Texas and Arizona.

All 23 defendants face conspiracy charges. Kingston and Yu, known in his circles as the "Doctor," also are charged with intentionally engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise.

Indicted with Kingston and Yu in one or more of the 13 money laundering charges were Wanda Jean Adkins of Midland, Lance Allen Batchelor of Ogden, Utah; Maria Guadalupe Lopez Yu, Rosalia Valdez Yu and Gabriela Lopez of El Paso; Margaret Shumate Kingston of Abilene; Jennifer Dee Calhoun of Midland; Walter Gene Bedford of Austin; and Ruben Roach and Edward Kelvin Johnson of Tampa, Fla.

"Kingston would have an order he would want placed, and he'd get that from Yu," said Jackie Collins, a branch chief for the IRS' investigation division. "In turn (Kingston) would ship the money by UPS, mail, wire or whatever. That in itself is money laundering."

Batchelor and Alycia Huggins, also named in the Texas indictment, face federal charges in Utah for intent to distribute Ritalin. In a separate Utah indictment, Ryan Williams and Candice Murdock of Layton, Utah, and Eric Lichter of Ohio were charged with distributing Rohypnol. All those named in the Utah counts were in custody Tuesday.

Drug Enforcement Agency resident agent-in-charge Joe Solpietro said an exact inventory of drugs seized in Tuesday's raids wouldn't be known until later. He added that it will take some time before field agents can determine what dent the bust might make on street supplies.

While Ritalin, Valium and steroids are available by prescription in the United States, Rohypnol is always illegal, Coggins said.

"Date rape pills are a plague in this country," said Coggins, who added that any prescription drug becomes illegal if improperly used. "(Rohypnol has) no approved medical use here."

Based on the number of states involved, the cooperation of numerous local, state and federal authorities and the number of indictments, Coggins said it is the nation's biggest case to date regarding the illegal importation of pharmaceuticals from Mexico.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Pierce said more indictments are possible after the current list of suspects is rounded up. Defendants in the Texas indictments will be transported to Lubbock to await trial.


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