Chipotle just cannot catch a break when it comes to publicity. In the latest bad PR for the company, which has been struggling since a series of foodborne illness outbreaks, the chain's top marketing executive was allegedly caught during the busting of a cocaine drug ring in Manhattan, the New York Times reports. Mark Crumpacker—who has been "seen as the architect of [Chipotle's] efforts to win back wary diners," per the Wall Street Journal—was indicted as one of 18 alleged purchasers and will soon be arraigned, per a law enforcement official. Crumpacker, 53, has been placed on administrative leave. Fortune notes that he's one of the chain's highest-paid executives, having received $4.3 million in total compensation last year.
The indictment was made public Thursday. Also indicted: a Merrill Lynch employee and Fox Business Network producer Katie Welnhofer. Each of the 18 alleged "key repeat customers" is being charged with a misdemeanor, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, for allegedly taking advantage of what authorities call a "high-end, on-demand service," the New York Daily News reports. As for Crumpacker, who "has been the public face" of Chipotle's efforts to win back customers' trust, per WSJ, a company rep says the decision to put him on leave and assign his responsibilities to other senior managers was made "in order to remain focused on the operation of our business, and to allow Mark to focus on these personal matters." (Read more Chipotle stories.)