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Phoenix-area mom helps bust Web-based Ecstasy ring

PHOENIX – Police are crediting a Phoenix-area mother’s tip for the dismantling of an Internet-based Ecstasy sales ring.

The unidentified woman’s call to the Maricopa County Methamphetamine Task Force early last week brought swift action from detectives, who within hours located the seller’s MySpace page online, including a complete price list, quantity and product review.

The woman looked at her 17-year-old son’s activity on the Internet and realized he was more than likely purchasing some sort of drug, said Lt. Steve Bailey, a Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy assigned to the task force. “She figured out it was Ecstacy, and put that together with how he was acting, lethargic and spacey, and called us.”

By Tuesday, 10 Ecstasy dealers who had a combined clientele of nearly 500 metro Phoenix high school and college students were under arrest, investigators say.

The network of small-time peddlers was coordinated and advertised through the social networking Web site, Bailey said.

Detectives were able to buy the drug from dealers in Mesa, north Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe and Fountain Hills, and in parks, restaurants and other public places. If a dealer ran out, he simply referred undercover agents to some other suppliers, police said.

“It’s sort of a loose-knit, somewhat organized group,” Bailey said. “There’s no sense of competition among them or anything. They got kids with pockets full of money who just want to get high on Friday and Saturday night.”

Detectives purchased more than 200 hits in their brief investigation.

Dealers said they bought the pills for $7 and typically sold them for $15 and could make as much as $3,000 each weekend selling the drug at parties and raves and other all-night dance parties held in large venues.

The ease of buying and selling the drug shows where Ecstasy ranks on the list of concerning drugs for parents and teenagers, investigators said.

“It’s very easy (to buy) and unfortunately, I hate to say, accepted. Parents hear about these rave parties and alcohol isn’t allowed at these rave parties because it’s a dangerous combination,” said Phoenix police Sgt. Don Sherrard, a member of the task force. “So the parents are kind of ignorant and kind of relieved that their kids aren’t out drinking and driving and don’t realize their kids are doing methamphetamine.”

Physicians say Ecstasy can damage the brain. It dumps all of the serotonin out of the user’s brain in one massive reaction that brings a state of euphoria, said Dr. Jeff Thomas, a clinical professor at Arizona State University.

The drug also blocks the brain from recycling that serotonin, leading to the depression that follows. “It takes a long time, 6 months, for your brain to get back where it was after one dose,” Thomas said. “This drug is actually more damaging than methamphetamine.”

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