Rave crackdown results in Hollywood nightclub raid, drug arrests

LOS ANGELES -- A seven-month probe that led to the seizure of more than 10,000 Ecstasy pills culminated in a raid early Sunday at a popular Hollywood nightclub where authorities allege designer drugs were openly sold at rave parties.

Five people were arrested on drug charges during the raid of Circus Disco, capping an undercover investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

During that time, alcohol control investigators bought Ecstasy, cocaine, marijuana and ketamine from 25 people. In six cases, the drug sales were either made or facilitated by nightclub employees, the state's alcohol control department said in a statement.

The pills that were seized over the course of the investigation had an estimated street value of more than $200,000, officials said.

No one at the club was available for comment Sunday night.

Investigators targeted Circus Disco following the September 2001 death of a 27-year-old man who collapsed on the dance floor and began having convulsions after taking Ecstasy he allegedly obtained at the nightclub.

The man's parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the club's owner, Eugene LaPietra, who spearheaded an unsuccessful ballot measure to have Hollywood secede from the city of Los Angeles.

State officials said they had consulted one of the nation's leading experts on Ecstasy and raves. After visiting Circus Disco, the expert, Trinka D. Porrrata, said the club was clearly hosting raves based on factors ranging from the sale of caffeinated "power" drinks that supposedly enhance Ecstasy's hallucination-inducing effects to the loud music and the presence of a "cooling off" area staffed by emergency medical technicians.

Although the club remained open Sunday night, the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control plans to accuse Circus Disco with violating the terms of its liquor license for allowing "the conspicuous and blatant use of drugs," the agency said in a statement. The action could result in the club having its license to sell liquor suspended.


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