Westlake Man Linked to Illegal Drug Labs : Owner of Chemical Stores Pleads Guilty

Times Staff Writers

A Westlake Village man accused of supplying chemicals used to manufacture illegal drugs pleaded guilty Monday to charges that could send him to prison for 20 years.

Burton W. Farrell, 58, owner of Chemical Shed Inc., a chain of three stores, pleaded guilty in U. S. District Court in Los Angeles to one count each of conspiring to aid and abet the manufacture of illegal drugs, income tax evasion and running a business through a pattern of racketeering. He will be sentenced June 2.

Under terms of a plea agreement reached with Farrell and his lawyers, the government will recommend that the sentences on two counts be served concurrently with the racketeering count, which carries a maximum term of 20 years, said John L. Kuray, assistant U. S. attorney.

Last July, federal prosecutors used the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1984 to seize Farrell's $650,000 home, $135,000 in stocks and bonds and Chemical Shed stores in Canoga Park, Ventura and San Bernardino.

After initially appealing the civil action against his assets, Farrell is no longer contesting the forfeiture, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said it was the first time the act has been used in the West. The act permits the government to confiscate assets of individuals or businesses involved in counterfeiting, customs violations or the sale of illegal drugs and weapons.

Farrell admitted that he sold chemicals and equipment to clandestine laboratories, Kuray said, knowing that they would be used to manufacture illegal drugs, such as phencyclidine, or PCP, a hallucinogenic drug that often produces bizarre behavior; amphetamines and methaqualone, commonly known as Quaalude.

Robert C. Bonner, assistant U. S. attorney, said Farrell was the largest West Coast supplier of chemicals to illegal laboratories.

"Chemical companies that supply precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of illegal drugs are a major contributor to our nation's drug problem," Bonner said. "Simply put, without these precursor chemicals, these drugs cannot be manufactured. If they cannot be manufactured, they cannot reach the street.

"Other chemical suppliers ought to take notice. We will not hesitate to use the potent legal statute, including its forfeiture provisions, to prosecute such suppliers," Bonner said. "As this case demonstrates, there are very, very severe consequences in store for those who supply precursor chemicals used to illegally manufacture controlled drugs."

Farrell also admitted that he attempted to evade income taxes by reporting only $48,161 in taxable income for 1983 when his actual taxable income was $686,000, prosecutors said.

The government's evidence, which included court-approved wiretaps, indicated that Farrell asked no questions of his customers if they paid cash, Kuray said.

Federal prosecutors said several laboratories that purchased drugs from Farrell are under investigation.

Farrell conducted legitimate business along with supplying clandestine laboratories, particularly through the Ventura store, Kuray said.

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