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ASU plant biology professor arrested in Ecstasy ring

 by Seth Scott
 published on Tuesday, October 2, 2001

ASU plant biology professor Ralph Backhaus./issues/campusnews/109884
ASU plant biology professor Ralph Backhaus.


ASU plant biology professor Ralph A. Backhaus was arrested by the Arizona Department of Public Safety Tuesday in connection with a three-state Ecstasy ring.

Backhaus, 50, was placed on administrative leave following his arrest.

Backhaus is accused of using his position at ASU to take equipment off campus to manufacture Ecstasy and order new equipment to manufacture the drug. DPS said he ordered chemicals through the university specifically to make Ecstasy, but no drugs were actually manufactured at ASU.

Six people were arrested in connection with the alleged drug ring, and no charges have been filed against Backhaus.

Officials said the drugs were shipped to California and Idaho and were also sold to ASU students.

Police searched Backhaus' office looking for evidence Monday and found a paper with directions on how to make the drug. Officials believe the drug ring produced approximately $1 million worth of Ecstasy a day.

"He was a great teacher," said plant biology senior Jennifer Nelkin. "He helped me with a project that had nothing to do with my class and he was happy to do it."

Nelkin said Backhaus made himself available to students, offered guidance, and served as a great resource for students.

"He's a very nice person, very easy to talk to" said plant biology graduate student Karen Dillman. Dillman was also a teaching assistant for Backhaus last semester.

Dillman also described Backhaus as "cool kind of guy" who could relate to younger people. She has never heard a student complain about him, she said.

"I think he tried to help the students as much as he could," she said.

Backhaus has been an ASU professor since 1977, when he came to the campus from the University of California at Davis.

He is also a member of the American Society of Plant Physiology, the American Society of Horticultural Science and the International Society of Plant Molecular Biology.

Backhaus, an Ahwatukee resident, was named Outstanding Research Scientist of the Association for the Advancement of Industrial Crops in 1991.

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