Saturday, June 10, 2006

DEA Busts Hollywood Ecstasy Ring

ABC News

CEO of Limelight Films and the Fiance of Charlie Chaplin's Granddaughter Arrested in Alleged Ecstasy Ring.

A man engaged to Charlie Chaplin's granddaughter was arrested in a drug sting targeting a group that trafficked the drug ecstasy from Europe to Los Angeles and used a Hollywood movie studio to launder money, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

DEA officials say Alexandre De Basseville, who is engaged to Chaplin's granddaughter Kiera Chaplin, and Bruno D'Esclaelles, the CEO of Limelight Films, met on several occasions with undercover federal agents during the past two years and attempted to set up deals to bring 500,000 ecstasy pills into the United States.

De Basseville also allegedly discussed the possibility of weapons trafficking with undercover agents, but no weapons were ever exchanged in the deals.

The DEA says members of the drug ring took what they believed were drug proceeds and laundered the money using their Los Angeles business, Limelight Films. Chaplin is the chairwoman of the company, but she is not believed to be involved in the investigation, according to a federal law enforcement official.

De Basseville is an executive board member of ADB Swiss S.A., a Swiss-based financial services company that owns Limelight Films, Inc. Four other top executives at Limelight, including Chief Financial Officer David Liberman, were arrested in connection with the case.

Calls made by ABC News to Limelight's offices in Los Angeles were not returned Monday evening after the DEA announcement.

The Limelight Web site says of Chaplin: "As the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, her vision was to bring back her grandfather's legacy to the United States and develop new opportunities in the film arena."

Swiss national Thomas Frischknecht, who allegedly supplied De Basseville and D'Esclaelles with access to the ecstasy pills, was also arrested in the Netherlands. In February 2006, Frischknecht sent a package with 10,000 ecstasy pills into the U.S., but the pills were actually received by an undercover federal agent working on the case, according to the DEA.

After the shipment, Frischknecht, De Basseville and D'Esclaelles agreed to sell another 500,000 ecstasy pills to the agent posing as a drug trafficker. But all three were arrested before the second shipment was made.

De Basseville and D'Esclavelles were arrested Friday in Arlington, Va., just outside Washington, and Frischknecht was arrested Friday in the Netherlands and charged with conspiracy to import ecstasy, the DEA said.

In a statement, DEA administrator Karen Tandy said, "The men we arrested have laundered hundreds of thousands of dollars — money used to further their drug and weapons trade to endanger our neighborhoods and bleed our communities."

Geremy Kamens, an attorney in the Federal Public Defender's office in Virginia, who is representing De Basseville, declined to comment on the allegations. According to the DEA, seven individuals have been arrested in the two-year investigation which the DEA dubbed "Operation Director's Cut."

By Jason Ryan