Man Admits Running $72m Meth Operation

Posted: April 04, 2000

A Delaware County man may have broken all known records and made $72 million by dealing in P2P, a chemical used to make the drug methamphetamine, authorities say.

Prosecutors contend that James Mulholland, a former Operating Engineers union official, "masterminded" a scheme to smuggle about 3,300 gallons of P2P out of China over a nine year period, between 1991 and 1999.

The P2P was hidden in 55-gallon drums and shipped first to Mexico and then to Philadelphia.

Mulholland, formerly of Ridley Township, operator of a waste disposal business, pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy and related drug trafficking charges in federal court in Philadelphia. Mulholland and other associates allegedly sold much of the smuggled P2P for about $72 million on the black market, according to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph T. Labrum III and David L. Hall, the case prosecutors.

The Daily News has learned that Mulholland is informing on others and has agreed to forfeit $5 million before sentencing, in hopes of avoiding life imprisonment.

According to court records, Mulholland's P2P was sold to drug dealers in the Philadelphia area who could produce 10 to 13 pounds of methamphetamine, commonly called "speed," from each gallon of P2P.

Mulholland's P2P was selling for $10,000 to $35,000 a gallon.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agents recently seized about 1,100 gallons of P2P in a warehouse in Toluca, Mexico, where it had been stored, awaiting shipment to Philadelphia.

Another 125 gallons of P2P was seized in New Jersey last year.

The rest - roughly 2,000 gallons, enough to make at least 20,000 pounds of speed worth at least $200 million wholesale - apparently was sold in this area before Mulholland was arrested last year in Hong Kong, the prosecutors allege.

"It clearly is" the biggest known P2P distribution case ever prosecuted in this area, if not in the nation, said prosecutor Labrum.

Referring to the 1,100 gallon Mexican seizure, Mary Vaira, a DEA spokeswoman in Philadelphia, said, "We think it's a record-breaker." Two of Mulholland's codefendants also have entered guilty pleas and are cooperating with agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in ongoing investigations.

Jay Haefele, of Feasterville, an owner of the Columbia Yacht Club, on the Delaware River, pleaded guilty in October.

Last year, Haefele sold a gallon of P2P to an undercover operative.

Anthony Volpe III, 49, of Bucks County, who is serving a 20-year prison term for possession of methamphetamine and a machine gun, pleaded guilty yesterday.

In a search of Volpe's home in 1995, agents found photos of him and Mulholland at a chemical plant in China, business agreements with the plant, and telephone numbers of co-conspirators.

Mulholland, Haefele and Volpe will be sentenced later by U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III.

A fourth man, John Bushong, 56, of Gloucester County, N.J., admitted last year that he sold seven gallons of Mulholland's P2P to an informant for $22,000 a gallon outside a Delaware County bar, the Meetinghouse Tavern, in Twin Oaks, in 1997.

Bushong awaits sentencing.

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