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Queens narcotics cops bust $25M Ecstasy ring

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In what has been described by authorities as one of the largest seizures of Ecstasy yet, Queens detectives arrested two men at their Manhattan apartment last week, where they discovered more than a million tablets and over $180,000 in cash, the Queens district attorney said.

The seizure, made on July 18 by detectives from the Queens Narcotics Division of the Police Department, was one of the most fruitful in U.S. history, yielding 450 pounds of pills valued at more than $25 million, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. To put that in perspective, in all of last year authorities recovered 385 pounds of Ecstasy, a drug commonly used at raves and dance clubs, from John F. Kennedy International Airport, Brown said.

“This is among the most significant drug seizures that we have seen in recent years,” the district attorney said.

The authorities identified the two men as Israel Ashkenazi, 27, and David Roash, 25, both of Manhattan, who are citizens of Israel. The men have been charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, he said, and face 8 1/2 years to life in prison if convicted.

The arrests last week were the result of a long-term investigation, undertaken by detectives from Queens, into the Ecstasy trade in New York City, Brown said. From information developed during the investigation, the police were able to obtain a warrant to search the men’s Manhattan apartment, Brown said.

There they found 450 pounds of Ecstasy, or about 1 million tablets, bearing the Superman symbol and the triple triangle Mitsubishi logo, Brown said. The investigators discovered the pills, which can turn a profit at the retail level of up to $22 apiece, stored in two futons, a television set, four mobile telephones, eight duffel bags and a suitcase, the district attorney said. They also seized $187,000 in cash, he said.

Popular since the mid-1980s, Ecstasy in recent years has become even more ubiquitous among clubgoers, who take the pills to heighten both their senses and their energy levels. Although there is still some debate among researchers and scientists about what effect, if any, Ecstasy has on the central nervous system, immediate side effects may include nausea, chills, depression and paranoia, Brown said.

In most cases, the pills are manufactured overseas in such places as the Netherlands and are then trafficked into the United States. Manufacturers usually charge between $1 and $2 a tablet, which are then sold to wholesale distributors for $6 to $8, Brown said. “Ecstasy is illegal, and it is very dangerous,” the district attorney said.

“Those who take Ecstasy at raves and dance marathons and at the clubs risk exhaustion and dehydration from a combination of the drug and non-stop dancing — and some have died as a result.”

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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