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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
January 18, 2002

Mark Moger, Public Information Officer
(973) 273-5494


Operation Mountain Express III logoAnthony Cammarato, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the DEA Newark Field Division, announced today that the DEA has arrested Mantubhai Patel, the production manager and member of the board of directors for Neil Laboratories on January 16, 2002. The investigation was part of the nationwide Operation Mountain Express III, an investigation into the diversion of chemicals for the manufacture of methamphetamine. Neil Laboratories, located in East Windsor, New Jersey, is both an exporter and manufacturer of chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Patel was charged in a criminal complaint with distribution of List 1 chemicals for the purpose of manufacturing controlled substances.

photo - Administrator Hutchinson“Wednesday’s seizure is further evidence of the extraordinary scope of this methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy,” stated DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson. “This investigation points out the necessity of pursuing the vast network that unlawfully supplies chemicals to make methamphetamine.”

In addition to the arrest of Patel, a federal criminal search warrant and administrative inspection warrant were served on the company. DEA agents and diversions investigators searching the company seized multiple tons of ephedrine and psuedoephedrine along with 100 boxes of evidence and computer records. Ephedrine and psuedoephedrine are the essential ingredients in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine, commonly known as speed. The seizure represents the largest such domestic seizure of diverted chemicals since 1995.

“This investigation points out the necessity of pursuing the vast network that unlawfully supplies chemicals to make methamphetamine.”

-Asa Hutchinson

As a result of this action, Bharat Patel, the President of Neil Labs and brother of Mantubhai Patel, was served with an immediate suspension order. The order effectively closes down Neil Laboratories’ ability to manufacture products containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine until a future hearing.

The suspension order followed numerous warning letters issued to Neil Labs between February 1999 and April 2001, citing 50 law enforcement actions in eleven states which resulted in the identification of 3.5 million pseudoephedrine tablets that had been diverted for illegal purposes. The quantities diverted were sufficient to manufacture hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine. An audit conducted of Neil Labs in August 2000 revealed that the company had distributed 250 million pseudoephedrine tablets to 45 distributors nationwide in a 20-month period. The DEA took enforcement action against many of Neil Labs’ distributors over this period because they were diverting the tablets to retail outlets, including head shops, liquor stores, tobacco stores, and other retail outlets not normally involved in the sale of over-the-counter non-prescription drugs.

SAC Anthony Cammarato stated, “The magnitude of this operation underscores the serious threat that methamphetamine poses to this country.”

Over the course of this investigation, 13 Neil Lab distributors and customers nationwide have terminated chemical distributions and surrendered their chemical registrations to the DEA.

Patel was arraigned on Thursday in federal court in Newark and held on one million dollars bail.

The investigation was conducted by the DEA with the assistance of the United States Marshal’s Service, the Food and Drug Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Customs Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The United States Attorney’s office in Newark is prosecuting the case.

For further details on the investigation, please visit the DEA’s website at www.dea.gov and refer to Operation Mountain Express III under “major operations.”

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