Two men were charged this week in federal court with distributing more than 20,000 Ecstasy pills after an undercover drug buy outside the Mall of America.

A special agent with the FBI's Asian Organized Crime Task Force said in a sworn statement that one of the men, Othay Siharath, and some of his associates had discussed "getting rid of" a St. Paul police officer to protect their illegal drug business.

The officer, who was not identified, is working with the FBI's task force. Investigators found a photograph of him in Siharath's vehicle after his arrest Monday.

The federal complaint was unsealed Thursday after the defendants, Siharath, 30, of Shakopee, and Detvisay Nui Sorthepharack, 25, of Bloomington, made brief appearances in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. Siharath was ordered detained and Sorthepharack was released on a $25,000 bond.

Federal seizures in the past couple of years have removed about 450,000 Ecstasy pills from the streets in Minnesota, said David Anderson, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minneapolis. The largest single seizure -- 150,000 pills -- took place in 2005, he said. Eleven people were indicted in that case.

Ecstasy is the most common street name for MDMA, which the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) describes as "a synthetic, psychoactive drug chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline." It's also known under the names XTC, E, X, Beans, Adams, Hug Drug and Disco Biscuit.

Most of the drug coming to Minnesota is from the West Coast and Canada. The DEA says most of it is made in clandestine laboratories in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Probe began in October

According to the FBI agent's affidavit, the investigation of Siharath began in October when an informant and an undercover officer arranged to buy 500 pills for $2,500. The informant asked for more. And on Monday, Siharath called the informant and said he had 20,000 pills, the affidavit said.

The deal was negotiated at a Bloomington restaurant and the pills were delivered to the informant and an undercover officer at a Mall of America parking lot. The informant later paid $70,000 in cash to Siharath, who was arrested as he began counting out the money, the affidavit said.

In another recent case, Pierre Tchy Txou Yang, 20, of Fridley, was indicted in November on a charge of possessing Ecstasy tablets for sale. Witnesses reported on Oct. 19 that some individuals in a car were shooting at another vehicle near University and Western avenues in St. Paul. Officers recovered .40-caliber shell casings from the area.

According to an FBI agent's affidavit in that case, gang investigators suspected Yang, who tried to flee when officers approached to arrest him. A search of his house produced a .40-caliber handgun and 2,000 Ecstasy tablets.

Dan Browning • 612-673-4493