By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Both Pofahl and Ralston confirm that Pofahl made several attempts to win Ralston back. Ralston was unsure about the relationship, but when she heard about Pofahl's arrest, she jumped on a plane to Germany. From jail, Pofahl told Ralston about his safety boxes and asked her to retrieve some $400,000 for his legal defense. Ralston says she felt compelled to help her husband.
"I'm not proud at all to admit it, [but] I would start crying out in public," Ralston says. "I would start feeling a horrible feeling of concern that he was sitting in a jail cell, being subjected to I don't know what, and I was powerless to help him."
To this day, Ralston claims she had no idea that Pofahl was selling ecstasy until after his arrest.
"Was [ecstasy] legal when we first got into it? Yes. Did it later become illegal? Yes. Did I stop doing it? No," Ralston says. "But did I know he was manufacturing it, and he had these certain people and this whole organization in place? No."
Her claim, however, is false.
In truth, Ralston was an active participant in her husband's business up until May 1986, when she and Pofahl agreed that she should pull out, according to an affidavit that she herself wrote and asked Pofahl to sign as part of her legal appeal. In order to minimize her future culpability should a criminal case arise, Pofahl agreed to shield Ralston from all aspects of the business, refusing even to discuss it in her presence, while Ralston went to work at one of Pofahl's legitimate Dallas businesses, earning a monthly salary of $4,000.
In other words, what Ralston didn't know was how extensive her husband's business had become. After she visited Pofahl in jail, however, she got a pretty good idea.
Although Pofahl says he never got any of the money he requested, Ralston began to systematically enter the safety boxes and collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in dirty cash. As part of the effort, she enlisted the help of an ex-boyfriend who was dealing for Pofahl.
There was one vault in particular that Ralston and the man went out of their way to enter. Located inside a vault storage company at Inwood Village, the vault contained 110,000 pills. When the vault employees declined to let Ralston into the vault, she and the man "cooked up a scheme" in which he rented another vault in the same unit and, when the employees weren't looking, broke into Pofahl's vault using a combination Ralston gave him.
"When you're a customer," Ralston says, "they let you in and they leave you alone."
At this point, Pofahl had written Ralston a letter warning her to stay away from that vault, knowing federal agents would eventually search it. By the time Ralston got the letter, it was too late: The ex-boyfriend had retrieved the pills and sold them. Later, he presented Ralston with the proceeds--more than $300,000 in cash. "I took it," Ralston concedes.
Ralston took that cash, plus an additional and to this day undetermined amount of cash, and threw it into the trunk of a rental car, along with what Ralston says was an overnight-sized bag of broken ecstasy tablets. On May 5, 1989, Ralston drove the booty out to L.A.
"I was sitting on a mountain of money. A lot of people would think that's a great thing, but when it's illicit money, you're literally sitting on top of a mountain of dynamite and it's not fun," Ralston says. "You can't put it in your bank. You don't know what to do with it. If you get caught with it, it's great evidence to seal up a case."
That's what the U.S. investigators thought. By then, they had already searched Ralston's house and questioned her about her husband. Unlike the other members of the conspiracy--including Dr. Key's wife, who had knowledge of the case but was never prosecuted--Ralston refused to cooperate. Instead, she carried on with her life as if nothing was wrong.
Ralston says she not only continued to use ecstasy herself but gave it away to friends. Although that amounts to distribution under the law, Ralston saw nothing wrong with this. To her, getting high and getting others high was a lifestyle choice that was none of the government's business.
"I don't think I was irresponsible," Ralston says. "I definitely enjoyed it. I shared it. I turned a lot of people on to ecstasy."
As an example, Ralston recalls a trip on Venice Beach that was especially memorable. On that night, Ralston was walking along the sand with a friend who was taking ecstasy for the first time. Together, they watched planes at the L.A. airport.
"He goes, 'Wow, look at that plane,'" Ralston recalls. "To me, there was a thrill to seeing somebody come on for the very first time. I just really got a kick out of seeing this thing blossom out of someone. Everyday things become extraordinary."
Of course, none of this looked ordinary to the team of IRS and DEA investigators trailing Ralston.
I Ran (So Far Away)
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