Four Twin Cities men have admitted to their roles in a plan to distribute 12.5 kilograms of the illegal narcotic.
Three people pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in St. Paul Monday to possessing thousands of tablets of the drug Ecstasy. A fourth defendant in the case pleaded guilty two weeks ago.
Vong Voraseth, 28, of Minnetonka, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute Ecstasy. Two others -- Athit Syhaphom, 24, of Richfield and Minh Tran, 36, of Eagan -- pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting the distribution of Ecstasy. The fourth defendant, Soukseum Inthickack, 30 of Brooklyn Park, pleaded guilty on Oct. 15 to a single count of possession with intent to distribute the drug.
The four co-defendants -- some with nicknames like "Conehead" and "Sherm" -- had been indicted on multiple counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute Ecstasy, considered one of several "club drugs," for its popularity among younger people at night clubs and at all-night parties.
In all, Voraseth, Syhaphom, Tran and Inthickack admitted to working to move approximately 50,000 tablets -- or 12,500 grams -- between Jan. 1 and Nov. 8, 2007. They pleaded guilty to U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank.
Each of the defendants faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Frank will sentence them at a later date.
The FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) have reported hundreds of arrests across the country for the possession and distribution of Ecstasy.
According to a 2005 national survey of youth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6.3 percent of students nationwide had used Ecstasy, otherwise known as MDMA, one or more times. Overall, the survey results showed, Ecstasy use was more common among males -- at 7.2 percent -- than females, at 5.3 percent.
The survey also showed that Ecstasy use is higher among Hispanic youth than white or black youth. But many of the reported cases by the FBI over the past few years have involved Asians. According to 2002 data compiled by the National Institutes of Health, 13 percent of Asian youth ages 16-23 reported using Ecstasy at least once -- the highest percentage of any ethnic group.
James Walsh • 612-673-7428