2 given probation for drug trafficking

2 given probation for drug trafficking

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Two Billings executives of Spectrum International convicted in a federal drug trafficking case were sentenced Thursday to probation and ordered to pay $2 million in fines and forfeitures.

Thom Mrozek, public affairs officer for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, said Friday that Charles G. Eisele, president of Spectrum International, and his brother, Richard D. Eisele, vice president, were sentenced to two years of probation, which includes six months of house arrest. The corporation was ordered to pay a $200,000 fine and a $1.8 million forfeiture.

The brothers pleaded guilty on Oct. 23 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to drug trafficking charges stemming from their company’s illegal distribution of more than 1 billion tablets of pseudoephedrine, a cold-medicine ingredient that is used in making methamphetamine.

The plea agreement called for Spectrum to pay $2 million to the government. The defendants could have been sentenced to 10 months in federal prison.

Prosecutors said earlier that in shutting down Spectrum’s distribution of pseudoephedrine, the government “stopped the distribution of over 12 million tablets per week, which could have yielded over 1,100 pounds of methamphetamine weekly.”

The government also said there was no way to provide an accurate estimate of the amount of methamphetamine produced from Spectrum-supplied tablets.

According to court documents, Spectrum executives had been warned in 1996 that their product had been found at “locations connected with the manufacture of methamphetamine” but continued selling the tablets.

The company’s Release brand of pseudoephedrine was found at more than 35 clandestine methamphetamine labs throughout the United States, federal prosecutors said.

The case against Spectrum was the largest of its kind prosecuted in the United States in terms of the number of pseudoephedrine tablets involved, according to the government. Spectrum distributed about 1.1 billion tablets containing pseudoephedrine to other companies and individuals who then distributed the pills to others who manufactured methamphetamine.

The investigation of Spectrum’s activities began in Billings in 1996 and involved U.S. attorneys in Montana, Oklahoma, New York and California. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency and the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation division also assisted with the case.

Los Angeles attorney Donald Re, who represented Charles Eisele, said earlier that there was no claim that Spectrum directly supplied chemicals to methamphetamine labs. The government said the brothers should have known the chemicals were being used to make meth, Re said.

The pseudoephedrine was sold primarily in truck stops as a cold medicine, Re said. “Somewhere way down the line, somebody was buying the stuff and diverting it to improper use. (Spectrum) was basically in the chain of distribution,” he said.

Clair Johnson can be reached at 657-1282 or at cjohnson@billingsgazette.com

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