Blevins, former Metabolife owner, pleads guilty to weapons charge
Friday September 30, 2005
By SETH HETTENA
Associated Press Writer
SAN DIEGO (AP) Michael Lee Blevins, a convicted drug dealer who joined Metabolife International Inc. and became a millionaire selling a now-banned herbal supplement, pleaded guilty Friday to being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Blevins admitted in federal court that he used a straw purchaser to buy a rifle, a shotgun, a .357 Magnum and ammunition from a San Diego area gun store in 2001 and 2002. The charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors brought charges in 2003 against Blevins and his wife, Danica. Prosecutors were evaluating the case to decide whether to proceed against Danica Blevins in light of her husband's plea, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Halpern.
Blevins, 54, was barred from possessing firearms after he was indicted in 1989 in what the Drug Enforcement Administration called the biggest single roundup of methamphetamine manufacturers in U.S. history.
Blevins and his high school friend, Michael Ellis, outfitted a home with equipment and chemicals to make at least 50 pounds of methamphetamine, court records show. Ellis cut a deal with prosecutors and received probation, while Blevins served five years in prison.
After his release from prison, Blevins joined Ellis at Metabolife, which became one of the nation's biggest sellers of dietary supplements. The company's best-selling supplement, Metabolife 356, contained the now-banned herb ephedra, which has been linked to 155 deaths.
Between 1999 and 2001, Ellis, Blevins and another company owner were paid a total of $146 million, Metabolife's vice president of finance testified in a deposition obtained by The Associated Press.
Both Ellis and Metabolife are fighting federal charges of lying to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about the dangers of Metabolife 356. No trial date has been set.
Metabolife says it was driven to file for bankruptcy protection in July by the costs of defending more than 360 lawsuits nationwide involving the sale of company products containing ephedra.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)