Agents raid alleged Ecstasy drug lab hidden in office

By Ben Fox, The Associated Press
Friday October 19, 2001

SAN DIEGO — A large and sophisticated laboratory for the club-drug Ecstasy was shuttered after a raid Thursday, authorities said. 

The lab was hidden behind a bookcase in an office in an industrial park in Escondido, 30 miles north of San Diego, authorities said. 

Five people were arrested at the lab late Wednesday, and 21 others were picked up in related sweeps in and around San Diego and Los Angeles. More arrests were expected. 

Arraignments for the suspects were scheduled for Friday. 

The raid capped a yearlong investigation into an organization capable of making between 1 million and 1.5 million tabs of Ecstasy a month, said Errol Chavez, Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in charge. 

Investigators found plastic bags filled with several thousand Ecstasy pills and enough chemicals to make a million more, said Todd Robinson, assistant U.S. attorney. 

Among those arrested was Dennis L. Alba, 52, whom authorities identified as the ringleader. A phone number for his Oceanside address was unlisted, and he could not be reached. 

The DEA had custody of Alba late Thursday, and whether he had an attorney could not be determined. The U.S. Marshals Service said it would have more information when he was turned over to the Bureau of Prisons. 

Typically, Ecstasy is made overseas, primarily in Europe. More than 80 percent of the pills distributed in the United States are believed imported, Chavez said. 

“This case represents a major attempt to establish a foothold in the United States,” he said.