- Crumpacker charged with buying drugs on seven occasions
- Chief creative officer placed on administrative leave
A top Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. marketing executive might have been driven to drugs as the fast-food chain’s brand was tarnished by health scares at the burrito restaurants.
Mark Crumpacker, 53, the chain’s chief creative and development officer, appeared in New York state court on misdemeanor charges that he bought cocaine on seven occasions since January, according to prosecutors. He’s accused of being one of 18 "repeat customers" of a cocaine-delivery service who were indicted Thursday along with three ringleaders.
Crumpacker’s alleged drug purchases coincide with some of the company’s worst days of 2016, with Chipotle struggling to bounce back from a string of E.coli and norovirus outbreaks. Crumpacker, whose compensation was $4.28 million last year, led the marketing effort to restore the company’s image. He helped unveil a new loyalty program last week called Chiptopia Summer Rewards, aiming to get customers to come back.
He surrendered to authorities on Tuesday and was escorted into court in handcuffs, flanked by New York City Police Department officers. He didn’t enter a plea and was released after posting bail. His attorney, Gerald Lefcourt, declined to comment outside court.
According to Assistant District Attorney Patrick Doherty, Crumpacker was caught on wiretaps 13 times ordering drugs, mostly to his apartment near Union Square, and most recently on June 18. He spent almost $3,000 on the deliveries, Doherty said.
Crumpacker is accused of making the first cocaine purchase on Jan. 29. That was just days before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the results of a probe into two E.coli outbreaks that sickened dozens of Chipotle customers.
The second purchase came on March 8, prosecutors said. On that day Chipotle said it temporarily shut down a restaurant in Massachusetts after four employees got sick. Another purchase allegedly occurred April 27, the day after Chipotle posted its first quarterly loss as a public company.
And yet another took place on May 11, according to prosecutors. It was the day of the company’s annual meeting, where shareholders voted to approve a proxy-access proposal backed by activists in a rebuke to the board.
Chipotle put Crumpacker on administrative leave on June 30. He was named marketing head of the Denver-based restaurant chain in 2009 and more recently took on the title of chief creative and development officer.
"We are aware that Mark presented himself to authorities earlier today," Chris Arnold, a spokesman for Chipotle, said in a statement. "He remains on a leave of absence from his job to focus on these personal matters."
A ring based on Manhattan’s Lower East Side allegedly used livery vehicles to deliver cocaine to locations throughout New York City, including apartments, bars, delis, hotels, pharmacies, restaurants and workplaces, according to prosecutors. The investigation began last year after a banker died leaping from his Manhattan residence, authorities said.
The alleged repeat customers were all charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum prison term of one year. Three men were also indicted for running the ring.
Crumpacker was a co-founder and executive at brand adviser Sequence LLC before taking over Chipotle’s marketing. The company has used the firm to help with its Food With Integrity campaign, which promotes its use of local ingredients and meat from naturally-raised animals.