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Contraband
06/30/2008

Canadian suspected of running Ecstasy import ring nabbed in Newport Beach

ICE and Santa Monica police recover $2 million worth of drug from trunk of suspect?

LOS ANGELES – A Canadian citizen now living in Newport Beach is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court here this afternoon to face charges stemming from his role in a scheme to smuggle Ecstasy into the United States from Canada and exchange it for caches of cocaine.

Alexandru Sabau, 37, was taken into custody by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and officers from the Santa Monica Police Department on Friday a short distance from his apartment at 9129 Residencia Street. Investigators moved in after Sabau arrived for a roadside meeting with an informant to finalize a deal to trade Ecstasy for 25 kilograms of cocaine. Inside the trunk of Sabau’s rental car authorities found approximately 100,000 Ecstasy tablets. The pills, which typically retail for $20 a tablet, would have brought as much as $2 million on the street. Subsequently, agents executed a federal search warrant at Sabau’s residence and discovered a small amount of cocaine and approximately $14,000 in cash.

Sabau is charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. The charges are the culmination of a three-month joint undercover probe involving ICE and the Santa Monica Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

“We believe this individual was seeking to bring significant quantities of Ecstasy into Southern California from Canada, which he told our informants he intended to use as collateral to obtain caches of cocaine for export back to Canada,” said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge for the ICE office of investigations in Los Angeles. “These substances not only pose a significant public safety risk, they also generate huge profits that are often funneled back into other types of illegal activity. That is why ICE is determined to attack and dismantle these kinds of criminal schemes.”

Ecstasy is the common name for 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as MDMA, a synthetic drug chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline.

“This investigation arose from several low level narcotics cases in the Santa Monica and West Los Angeles area,” said Lieutenant Doug Theus, Commander of the Santa Monica Police Department’s Office of Special Enforcement. “We believe our collaborative efforts with ICE are what led to the successful capture of this Ecstasy supplier.”

If convicted, Sabau faces a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Authorities say the investigation into the drug trafficking scheme is ongoing.

Editor’s Note: A digital photo of the seized Ecstasy is available. To obtain a copy – send an email to virginia.kice@dhs.gov.