A senior biochemist at Merck, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, was arrested on Thursday for synthesizing the drug GHB, with intent to distribute.
Kurt Romondt, 44, was arrested at his home in Springfield, New Jersey. The police discovered nearly 3,000 grams of gamma-butyrolactone, a chemical used to make GHB, as well as 300 milliliters of the drug itself.
They also found a scale and other tools for synthesis, the Union County Prosecutor's Office told BuzzFeed News by email. Romondt received the chemicals through the U.S. Postal Service, the prosecutor said.
GHB, an odorless and tasteless sedative, is best known as a date-rape drug, though it's also becoming popular for recreational use.
Because it is a precursor to GHB, gamma-butyrolactone is a "Schedule 1" drug, the strictest regulatory category, meaning it has high potential for abuse and no legitimate medical use.
Merck has placed Romondt on leave, pending the results of the investigation, company spokesperson Lainie Keller told BuzzFeed News by email. "We are cooperating fully with law enforcement on this matter," Keller said.
Romondt's bail was set at $200,000. He faces up to 35 years in prison.
Cat Ferguson is a writer based in Oakland, California. You can follow her on Twitter @biocuriosity or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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