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By Sam Levin
By Sam Levin
By Sam Levin
Had Seidel called the DEA, it likely wouldn't have made a difference. The cops knew about Miracle Cleaning Products before Seidel ever met Cassandra.
Police in Ann Arbor, Michigan, called Festus police in March 2000 when University of Michigan students alerted campus authorities to a package addressed to a man who had moved out of their house. They suspected the package contained drugs. Inside was a Miracle Cleaning Products bottle with Cassandra's return address.
"I thought it was kind of odd, so I went down to the post office," recalls Lieutenant Don Lassing of the Festus Police Department. "I checked City Hall to see if they had a business license. It kind of snowballed from there."
GHB, GBL and BD were new to Lassing.
"Just about the time this broke, we started getting information about GHB, date-rape drugs, ecstasy, but we had never made a case or investigated a case involving it," he says. "We'd always read brochures, went to classes -- we were told what to look for and blah, blah, blah. So when this broke, naturally I'm sitting here with my head in my hands, going, 'Holy shit. What's it look like? What's it smell like?' That's when I called the DEA and said, 'Hey, here's what I think I've got. Can you come down and talk? They said, 'Yeah, we'll help you with it. We'll run with it.'"
They didn't run very fast.
In an affidavit used to get a tap on Cassandra's e-mail account, a DEA agent told a judge that the active investigation into the Harveys didn't begin until February 2002, nearly two years after Michigan police called Festus. The agent also told the judge that the DEA in St. Louis didn't launch an investigation until local agents got a tip from the San Jose, California, DEA office. Regardless of how the investigation began, law enforcement watched for more than two years while the Harveys peddled poison.
In November 2000, sheriff's deputies in Kern County, California, raided the home of a suspected GHB dealer. They didn't find any GHB, but they did find a Dr. Pepper bottle filled with BD. A search of the suspected dealer's computer records revealed that she'd been buying half-gallons from Miracle Cleaning Products. The suspected dealer wasn't charged with a crime.
In February 2001, DEA agents in Chicago found a Miracle Cleaning Products container in the home of a suspected dealer who was prosecuted in state court. The DEA says the dealer admitted buying at least two gallons of Miracle Cleaning Products, which he resold after diluting each gallon with three gallons of distilled water.
An emergency physician in Hastings, Michigan, raised a flag about Miracle Cleaning Products in April 2001, when a man brought his wife to the hospital. She was suffering from an overdose, and the man brought along a Miracle Cleaning Products bottle. After calling Cassandra -- her number was printed on the bottle label -- the doctor contacted a Michigan state trooper who was at the hospital in connection with an unrelated traffic accident.
The doctor told the trooper that the woman who answered Cassandra's phone was uncooperative and sounded as if she was trying to hide something. She wouldn't give him any information unless he told her the name of the patient who had overdosed, which the doctor explained was impossible because of patient-doctor confidentiality. The woman also said she wouldn't sell to anyone who was ingesting Miracle Cleaning Products. Finally the doctor asked whether Miracle Cleaning Products contained BD. When the woman answered yes, the doctor hung up and found the trooper.
The trooper submitted the bottle to a lab for testing and visited the man whose wife had overdosed. The man told the trooper that he had taken his wife to the emergency room four times in less than a year for treatment of BD overdoses. He also told the trooper that his wife had been purchasing BD over the Internet.
Miracle Cleaning Products made the mainstream in January 2001, when the New England Journal of Medicinepublished an article warning that BD was killing people. Included in the article was a table listing various names, including Miracle Cleaning Products, under which BD was being sold. Deborah L. Zvosec, a medical anthropologist who co-authored the journal article, says she had no trouble figuring out that Miracle Cleaning Products was a drug in disguise.
"We were watching the Internet for these butanediol and [GBL] supplements," Zvosec recalls. "When I went to it [the Miracle Cleaning Products Web site] and accessed it and looked at the legal disclaimer and looked at the fact that first they were selling GBL and when that started catching some heat, butanediol started to appear, that's what tipped us off to it."
The DEA says 72 people have died after taking GHB or copycat drugs, but Zvosec believes the number is higher. Project GHB, a nonprofit group dedicated to increasing awareness about GHB and similar chemicals, says more than 250 people worldwide have died. BD is dangerous even to nonusers because the chemical takes effect so quickly, Zvosec says.
"Someone could literally walk to their car looking completely normal and in the next fifteen minutes be losing consciousness," she says. "We had addicts who told us that they would feel themselves losing consciousness and not even have time to pull over to the side of the road. The public-health risk is profound, especially with the addicts because of the chronic use. Remember, they're using around the clock, so they're driving intoxicated all the time."