Chipotle Mexican Grill was dealt another blow on Thursday after the executive leading many of its efforts to recover from a food safety scandal was charged with drug possession and accused him of having a connection to a cocaine delivery service in New York.
The company said it had placed Mark Crumpacker, its chief creative and development officer, on administrative leave. "We made this decision in order to remain focused on the operation of our business and to allow Mark to focus on these personal matters," Chris Arnold, a Chipotle spokesman, said in an email.
Mr. Arnold said other executives had already been assigned to take on Mr. Crumpacker's work during his absence.
The company's same-store sales, or sales in stores open at least a year, have fallen dramatically after food safety crises involving contamination by E. coli and norovirus. More than 500 people became sick after eating at a Chipotle in the second half of last year.
The company has adopted a number of more stringent food safety protocols and spent millions of dollars on marketing to win back customers, efforts led by Mr. Crumpacker. Just this week the company announced Chiptopia, a new loyalty program that rewards frequent customers with free food. Buy four burritos, for instance, and get a fifth one free.
On Thursday, Mr. Crumpacker was named in an indictment from Manhattan prosecutors as one of 18 repeat buyers of cocaine from a business that delivered drugs to customers.
Mr. Crumpacker could not immediately be reached for comment.
The district attorney said the drug ring delivered more than $75,000 worth of cocaine over a year. Three men were charged with running the operation, which prosecutors said was based on the Lower East Side.
The indictment described meetings between the traffickers and buyers in Duane Reade drugstores, Chinese food restaurants and hotels.