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Alaska drug ringleader tied to drug-related death pleads guilty

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A 20-year-old Wasilla man, who pleaded guilty Friday to a federal drug conspiracy charge, now faces up to 20 years in federal prison for leading a methylone production and distribution ring linked to at least one death.

Robin Michael Gattis admitted he was the drug ring's leader and illegally imported methylone. The drug, more commonly known as "M1," is a stimulant popular among club-going youth that is chemically similar to MDNA or Ecstasy.

In the plea agreement, Gattis also admitted distributing drugs to minors and being responsible for providing the methylone that caused the April 2012 death of a co-conspirator identified in court documents only as "M.G.S." Prosecutors say Gattis used minors to wire money to China to buy methylone and asked friends and associates to allow him to use their addresses to receive shipments. Some of those international shipments were intercepted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. After M.G.S.'s death, Gattis emailed his Chinese supplier about the death and asked for a refund. However, less than a month later, Gattis resumed ordering from the same supplier.

Following the drug-related death, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Anchorage Police Department, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley Narcotics Enforcement Team launched an investigation. Authorities intercepted additional methylone-laden packages and found that Gattis imported at least three kilograms of methylone from China between October 2011 and July 2012.

Gattis and six other Anchorage-area residents involved in the ring were arrested last year. His co-conspirators all pleaded guilty earlier this year to drug and money laundering charges. Gattis is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 6.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Alaska is prosecuting the case.