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Bay Area man arrested in major Ecstasy bust

SANTA MONICA, Calif. - A Bay Area man is facing federal charges following his arrest by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and local detectives here over the weekend after a search of his car turned up more than 51,000 Ecstasy tablets.

Ramandeep Singh Sandhu, 25, of Fremont, Calif., was taken into custody late Sunday afternoon after investigators found the Ecstasy pills in the trunk of his vehicle parked near one of the city's busy intersections. Sandhu was booked into the Santa Monica Jail Sunday evening and transferred to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Monday, following the filing of federal drug charges. Sandhu is accused of conspiring to distribute Ecstasy and possession with intent to distribute the drug. He made his initial appearance in federal court in Santa Ana, Calif., yesterday.

In addition to ICE, detectives from the Santa Monica and El Monte police departments participated in Sunday's arrest. The seized Ecstasy, which weighed in excess of 40 pounds, has an estimated street value of more than $1 million. While ICE's investigation is ongoing, investigators say the quantity of drugs found in the vehicle suggests the defendant is a major distributor.

"Our joint efforts have prevented a sizeable quantity of this dangerous drug from reaching the streets of our community," said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge for the ICE Office of Investigations in Los Angeles. "These pills sell on the street for as much as $20 apiece. That translates into huge profits that are often funneled back into further criminal activity."

Ecstasy, or 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), is a synthetic, psychoactive drug chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline. It is classified under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning that it has no medical purpose.