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NJ feds bust ‘bath salts’ distribution ring

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: On the same day that Gov. Christie signed a law making the distribution of synthetic pot a serious crime, federal authorities announced the arrests of three Middlesex County men and one New York man in connection with a scheme to distribute kilogram amounts of “bath salts” at Rutgers and Monmouth universities.

Agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations seized more than $90,000 in cash and seized two luxury automobiles bought with money from the illicit business.

Federal authorities said the probe began after their agents intercepted a package containing 2 kilos of MDPV (Methylenedioxypryovalerone) shipped from the People’s Republic of China to an address in Old Bridge.

The white and yellow crystals often resemble legal bath salts, like Epsom salts. But they are much different — made from a chemical based on compounds found in the East African “khat” plant, which caused an uproar nearly a decade ago when people began importing and smoking it.

Sold in gas stations and smoke shops — with names such as “Energizing Aromatherapy,” “Down2Earth White Horse,” “Kamikaze,” “Ivory Wave” and “Vanilla Sky” — the drugs have been associated with intense, severe side effects that have led to suicidal thoughts, self-mutilation, and violent outbursts, state officials have said.

CLIFFVIEW PILOT was the first media organization in New Jersey to write about bath salts: Substance that mimics speed headed here

ALSO SEE: Dangerous ‘bath salt’ drugs made illegal in New Jersey

After federal authorities swapped out the Old Bridge shipment with bogus drugs resembling bath salts, an undercover agent delivered the package last Thursday and “watched as [the four suspects] transferred the package amongst themselves,” U.S. Attorney Paul S. Fishman said.

After being arrested, most of the defendants “admitted that they had distributed multiple kilograms of bath salts over the past year and that some of the drugs were sold at local college campuses, including Rutgers University and Monmouth University,” he said.

The Old Bridge resident, 24-year-old Charles Knierim, had a federal court appearance in Newark on Friday.

Today saw appearances for his alleged accomplices:

Kyle Jobes, 23, of East Brunswick; Benjamin Caturano, 22, of New Brunswick; and 22-year-old Conor Healion of West Hempstead, NY.

Fishman credited special agents of the ICE-HSI, assisted by inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle M. Corcione of Fishman’s General Crimes Unit in Newark.

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