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FBI Calls Drug "Detection" Device "A Fraud"


March 1996

The Quadro Tracker, the small black box its inventors say can detect controlled substances and gunpowder behind brick walls and inside school lockers, is a fraud, the FBI warned.

"A device marketed to law enforcement agencies nationwide, the Quadro Tracker ... is a fraud," the FBI wire said. "All agencies should immediately cease using the device if used as a basis for probable cause." Anyone who bought one of the devices is asked to contact the FBI white-collar crime division.

The U.S. Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of Texas issued a temporary restraining order against the Quadro Corporation of Harleyville, SC, freezing the company's assets and preventing them from manufacturing more of the product. The office said the company has sold more than 1000 of the devices at $395 to $8,000 each, totalling about $1 million. Mike Bradford, U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Texas, said use of the device could damage drug investigations. "Reliance on this device for investigative or disciplinary actions could possibly compromise serious investigations or deprive citizens, including school students, of basic constitutional protections," he said.

As was reported in the February issue of NewsBriefs, the Quadro Tracker is a small, 3.5-ounce black box with an antenna ("Drug 'Detection' Device Marketed to Schools; Secret Technology Creates Skepticism," NewsBriefs, February 1996). It comes with a number of "insertion cards" that its developers say will detect marijuana, gunpowder, and cocaine. Quadro Corporation Vice President Malcolm Roe, who is an electrical engineer, said the Quadro Tracker works by sensing the unique wavelengths produced by the molecules in controlled substances or gunpowder. "When scanning people, the QRS 3000 will recognize the existence of illicit drugs whether they are on or in a person, or even in the bloodstream," an advertisement for the Tracker claimed. The company said the Tracker works through magnetism, and therefore needs no batteries. The unit's technology has not been patented because the company does not want to reveal how the drug detection cards work.

Scientists at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico and the FBI Engineering Research Facility in Quantico, Virginia tested the Tracker, but found it was nothing more than an empty black box with a transistor radio antenna attached. When they opened the gunpowder, marijuana, and cocaine cards, they only found a sheet of white paper coated with plastic and human sweat. The paper is similar to that used in candy wrappers.

According to documents filed in court by the FBI, Tracker inventor Wade Quattelbaum told two FBI employees "no scientist is going to be able to figure out how it works because only I am smart enough to figure it out." As he demonstrated the device to the FBI employees, he described how it works. Then, according to the documents, he said: "everything I have told you about how they work is actually the opposite, so no one will know how they work. You have to be willing to believe that it will work." "I am the only one that knows all of the technology and I do all the research," Quattelbaum allegedly said. Quattelbaum told the Kansas City Star that he is in the process of launching a lawsuit against the FBI.

[Sources for this story include: Cindy Eberting, "Drug/Weapon Finder Is a Fraud, FBI Says," Kansas City Star, January 19, 1996, p. A1; Cindy Eberting, "Drug/Weapon Detector Still Intrigues," Kansas City Star, January 20, 1996, p. C1; Cindy Eberting, "Maker of Device Ordered to Stop," Kansas City Star, January 25, 1996, p. C1; "New Drug Search Device Exposed as Fraudulent," Drug Enforcement Report, February 8, 1996, p. 6; No author, "Detector-Fraud Case,"USA Today, January 25, 1996, p. 3A; Associated Press, "Drug Detection Kit Useless, US Says," Boston Globe, January 25, 1996, p. 19).