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Oak Harbor police, NCIS agents aid DEA in Ecstasy ring bust

Oak Harbor Police Department and Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents based at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station recently helped the federal government bust a large Ecstasy trafficking network.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced this week the indictment of 30 people allegedly involved in the trafficking of the designer drug in the Puget Sound region.

The Drug Enforcement Agency, which led the two-year investigation, claims the drug ring was one of the largest involving MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy, in the nation. Prosecutors allege more than 50,000 tablets of the drug were sold.

Sgt. Tim Sterkel, Oak Harbor Police Department’s drug enforcement officer, said the police and NCIS agents were able to connect an Oak Harbor man with the Ecstasy trafficking network.

Sterkel said he was working with informants last summer and learned that a 19-year-old Oak Harbor High School graduate, Ben Peterson, had been dealing Ecstasy to teenagers.

Sterkel worked with NCIS Supervisory Special Agent James Campbell to set up a a drug buy with an undercover agent. Sterkel said the agent bought some Ecstasy from Peterson on May 31.

Afterward, Sterkel called the DEA in Seattle to see if they had any further information on Peterson. He learned that DEA agents were familiar with Peterson, who allegedly had been selling the drugs at raves in Seattle.

From there, the DEA took over the investigation. Peterson was one of the 27 people arrested over the last week. The DEA is still trying to find three other people, according to Sterkel.

Peterson was allegedly selling drugs in Oak Harbor and Seattle for another defendant, a 24-year-old Seattle man. Both men are facing federal prosecution for conspiracy to distribute drugs.

Campbell said he’s heard Ecstasy described as a cross between methamphetamine and mescaline. He said it’s dangerous because it can cause brain damage and fatally high body temperatures.

“Everybody’s body reacts differently to Ecstasy,” he said. “There is no antidote. You either ride it out or die.”

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