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Suspect Safrole

Chicago police probe orders of drug precursor from Northwestern University

by William G. Schulz
April 12, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 15

Orders placed with a chemical supply company by an unnamed person claiming to be with Northwestern University have touched off a fraud investigation by the Chicago Police Department, with the added involvement of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The DEA listing of safrole (and other chemicals) means that for orders above a certain quantity, chemical suppliers must notify DEA. Sigma-Aldrich Chief Administrative Officer Mike Hogan says that the Northwestern orders for safrole never reached those quantities but that the company routinely double-checks orders for any DEA-listed chemical.

The case under investigation began with an order for safrole placed in early September 2003. A supervisor called the person who placed the order and questioned the address given for shipment.

"He said he's at Loyola [University] now, and he had given us the wrong address. That caused us to stop shipment, but it was too late--somebody had already picked it up," Hogan says. "We went to DEA."

At least two more attempts to place orders for safrole through the Northwestern purchasing system have been made with Sigma-Aldrich since September, Hogan says. The company has not filled those orders and has notified DEA on both occasions.

Northwestern officials will not comment on the investigation. Chicago Police Department spokesman Patrick Camden confirms that police are conducting a fraud investigation of chemical supply orders originating at Northwestern--specifically, delivery of $3,608.78 worth of chemicals and equipment to a Chicago address.


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