Man sentenced in plot to smuggle Ecstasy to Baton Rouge

A coordinator for an Ecstasy organization in Vietnam will spend six years in federal prison for plotting to smuggle more than 1.1 million tablets of the illegal drug from Canada to Baton Rouge and other U.S. cities.

U.S. District Judge James Brady imposed that penalty Thursday on Vinh Van Trinh, who previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute MDMA, also known as Ecstasy.

Trinh was arrested in December 2012 in Milwaukee on a warrant secretly issued eight months earlier by Brady. The judge also had sealed the indictment obtained in April 2012 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baton Rouge against Trinh and seven other people.

Most are alleged to have conspired to smuggle Ecstasy from Ontario, Canada, on 18-wheelers headed for Baton Rouge, Dallas, Los Angeles, Raleigh, N.C., and other unspecified locations. The indictment accused Trinh of having “coordinated transportation of the MDMA.”

The conspiracy is alleged to have begun by August 2005 and continued until at least April of 2012.

Others charged in the case are Nam Van To, Barjinder Singh Shahi, Amarjit-Singh Kullar, Douglas Jerry Akhigbe, Gurmukh-Singh Brar, Karan Uppal and Amandip Singh Chahal.

Court records indicate Shahi and Chahal previously pleaded guilty in the case and were sentenced to 46 months and 33 months in prison, respectively. The charges against the others are pending.

The indictment describes To as a partner in the organization that used Vietnam as its headquarters. To and Trinh would receive orders in Vietnam from customers in the United States for MDMA, the indictment alleges.

To and Trinh would contact individuals in Canada, including Shahi, to arrange transportation and delivery of the MDMA to customers in the United States, according to the indictment.

Those accused of transporting the illegal drug are Kullar, Akhigbe, Brar, Uppal and Chahal. All but Chahal are alleged to have used 18-wheelers to transport MDMA to Baton Rouge from the Toronto, Canada, area. Chahal was alleged to have used an automobile to travel from College Station, Texas, to Baton Rouge to distribute Ecstasy.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse lists Ecstasy as a Schedule I drug “with high abuse potential and no recognized medicinal use.” NIDA also refers to the drug as a euphoria-inducing stimulant which can lead to confusion, depression, sleep problems and drug craving.

Large doses can lead to organ failure, even death, according to NIDA. Prolonged use at more moderate levels can cause blurred vision and increases in a person’s heart rate and blood pressure.