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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 21, 2002

Kaiser doctor among 115 suspects arrested

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

A Honolulu anesthesiologist charged this week with purchasing chemicals that could be used to make the "date rape drug" was among 115 people arrested in a nationwide and Canadian sting operation.

"The trafficking of the date-rape drug is a growing problem in America," U.S. Attorney Edward Kubo said during a press conference yesterday. "The U.S. Customs Service had 47 seizures (nationwide) of this drug last year; this year, there have already been over 900 seizures."

Within the past several days, federal authorities made arrests in Quebec; Buffalo, N.Y.; Mobile, Ala.; Sparta, Tenn.; Detroit; San Diego; and St. Louis. The suspects were booked for investigation of possession or distribution of the drug

Peter Fong, an anesthesiologist at the Kaiser Permanente's Moanalua Medical Center, who does not have a criminal record, is accused of ordering the chemical components of the drug from an Internet site. He was arrested Thursday at the facility's parking lot after picking up the drugs from a postal inspector who posed as a clerk at a Mail Boxes, Etc., federal authorities said.

Police later searched his home and found cocaine, marijuana, ecstacy, anabolic steroids and five firearms, most of which appeared to be legally registered to him, according to authorities. He was charged with importing the date-rape drug, a count that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years, and with being a drug user in possession of weapons, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years.

Ed Kubo, U.S. attorney for Hawai‘i, said federal drug enforcement officials have logged 72 deaths nationwide related to date-rape drugs. He said the drugs are dangerous and highly addictive.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Kubo said he and local authorities want the people of Hawai'i to know that the drug is being widely distributed and is dangerous. Local authorities have made a few small seizures of the drug in Hawai'i over the years, but use of the drug is increasing nationwide, particularly at "raves" and parties, he said.

"These drugs are highly addictive and will render people unconscious, cause seizures, respiratory depression, hallucinations and even death," he said.

Federal Drug Enforcement officials have logged 72 deaths nationwide related to the drug since November 2000, he said.

The drug is a combination of substances that can include gamma hydroxy butryrate, or GHB; gamma butyrolactone, or GBL, a precursor to GHB; and butanediol, or BD. The drug is colorless and odorless and has been used by criminals to secretly spike drinks. Two of the three components are chemical solvents.

The people who consume the drug can be rendered incapable of resisting sexual attacks, Kubo said. After-effects include memory problems, which can make prosecution difficult and cause further psychological problems for the victims.

Although illegal for years in some states, possession of the drug — sometimes known by the overall name GHB —became a federal crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison after President Clinton signed the Hillory J. Farias and Samantha Reid Date-Rape Drug Prohibition Act of 2000. The act also required federal authorities to launch an awareness program.

Farias, 17, and Reid, 15, died after drinking sodas that their associates had secretly laced with GHB.

Use, distribution and manufacture of the drug on O'ahu became illegal under a 1997 city ordinance.

In the recent federal sting that resulted in Fong's arrest, authorities targeted people who'd purchased the components of the drug from a series of linked sites operated by a Canadian man.

The chemicals were marketed on the sites as health aids to avoid insomnia, beat alcohol addiction, increase sexual enjoyment and increase feelings of general well-being, as well as a possible means of promoting muscle growth.

The sites contained recipes for brewing the drug and links for U.S. customers to purchase the chemical components as nail polish remover, ink cleaner and sodium.

Fong told police officers he used the combination as a sleep aid, authorities said.

Jan Kagehiro, a Kaiser Permanente spokeswoman, said Kaiser officials were very surprised at the charges. Fong was described by his Kaiser associates as "a consummate professional" on the job, she said.

"His record as a physician is solid," she said. "Both in terms of the quality of care he has provided his patients, as well as in his interactions with his fellow physicians and staff."

Fong was placed on administrative leave after his arrest, she said.

Fong's lawyer, Daniel Pagliarini, could not be reached for comment.

Reach Karen Blakeman at 535-2430 or kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.