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Twelve arrested on synthetic drug charges

by Tom Chillemi

Federal felony charges have been placed against 12 persons in connection with alleged possession of illicit substances that closely resemble synthetic drugs, reported Gloucester Sheriff Darrell Warren last week. Another fugitive suspect is believed to be out of the state and has not been apprehended.

Synthetic drugs are known generically as “bath salts” or “spice.” Their effects mimic actual illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD and others. On the packages is printed: “Not for human consumption.”

Bath Salts have been sold openly and legally in area businesses. One problem was that when a state law made one Bath Salt compound illegal, manufacturers would change the formula slightly to skirt the law.

However, federal law has a provision that makes illegal “analogue compounds,” which are almost the same as the illegal formula. In chemistry, an analogue is a compound with a molecular structure closely similar to that of another.

On Thursday, April 18, law enforcement officers were reportedly seen searching two businesses in Gloucester County, one on Route 17 in Hayes and another on Route 14 in the Gloucester Court House area.

Called “Operation Direct Pressure,” the raids involved the Virginia State Police and the Tri-River’s Drug Task Force, comprised of investigators from the counties of Gloucester, Middlesex, Mathews and York; and police departments in James City County and Poquoson. Two officers of the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office participated in the search warrant execution.

The seven men and five women arrested on April 18 all were from Gloucester County. Each is charged with two felonies—conspiracy to distribute, and possession with intent to distribute an analogue of a controlled substance.

Those arrested were being held in Norfolk City Jail and were scheduled for a hearing in U.S. District Court on April 24.

Investigators have identified one business in Middlesex County that allegedly has sold Bath Salts. There was a second business in Saluda that investigators alleged sold Bath Salts, but has since closed.

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 04.24.2013

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