Ecstasy suspect to be in court

An alleged coordinator for an Ecstasy organization in Vietnam is scheduled to appear in federal court Friday to answer charges that he conspired to send more than 1.1 million tablets of the illegal drug from Canada to Baton Rouge.

Vinh Van Trinh was arrested Dec. 3 in Milwaukee, Wis., on a warrant secretly issued in April by U.S. District Judge James J. Brady.

Brady also had sealed the indictment obtained April 19 by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer M. Kleinpeter against Trinh and seven other people. All 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 conspiracy is alleged to have begun by August 2005 and continued until at least April of this year.

Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is listed by the National Institute of Drug Abuse 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 for which use 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.

Charged as a partner in the alleged conspiracy is Nam Van To, described in the indictment as a partner in the organization that used Vietnam as its headquarters.

Both To and Trinh “would receive orders in Vietnam from customers in the United States for MDMA,” according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges To and Trinh “would contact individuals in Canada, including (co-defendant Barjinder Singh Shahi) to arrange transportation and delivery of the MDMA to customers in the United States.”

Trinh, who is scheduled to appear at 9:30 a.m. Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen C. Riedlinger, is accused in the indictment of having “coordinated transportation of the MDMA.”

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

Court records that have since been unsealed on Brady’s order show that Chahal was arrested in April, pleaded not guilty, and was released without bail by U.S. Magistrate Judge Docia Dalby.

Shahi was arrested near Buffalo, N.Y., in July. In August, Shahi pleaded not guilty in Baton Rouge, then agreed to remain in federal custody, court records show.

Trinh will learn Friday whether he can be released on bail.

To, an alleged partner in the Vietnam-based MDMA conspiracy, was indicted in federal district court in San Diego, Calif., in 2006, for alleged conspiracy to commit thefts from casinos in Louisiana and several other states. To also was charged with conspiracy to launder money.

Those charges remain pending in San Diego.

According to that indictment, at least 19 people worked together in an effort to steal large amounts of cash from casinos in California, Mississippi, Indiana, Washington, Nevada and Louisiana.

In Louisiana, in August 2005, several of the alleged conspirators used a card-cheating scheme to steal $427,820 from the L’Auberge du Lac Hotel and Casino in Lake Charles, according to the indictment in San Diego.

Other members of the alleged conspiracy attempted to employ a similar scheme at the Isle of Capri Casino, in Westlake, in June 2006. However, the indictment states that the alleged attempt failed, and the alleged conspirators actually lost $50,000.