U.S. Attorney Announces Charges against
July 26 (NEWARK, N.J.) – Brian R. Crowell, Special Agent in Charge of the New Jersey Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced charges against Guilo Bertoli, Anthony Capaccio, and John Messina, for conspiring to distribute the synthetic designer drug, known as bath salts, which is a controlled substance. The defendants manufacture and distribute bath salts and other synthetic drugs through their business, “SmokeClear Inc.” (“SmokeClear”), and they were taken into custody yesterday as part of a nation-wide law enforcement action known as “Operation Log Jam,” targeted against the synthetic designer drug industry responsible for the production and sale of synthetic drugs that are often marketed as bath salts, Spice, incense, or plant food. The defendants were presented in Manhattan federal court.
DEA Special Agent in Charge for the New Jersey Division Brian R. Crowell stated: “As alleged, the defendants in this investigation had no concern at all for the welfare and safety of our public, especially our teens and young adults to whom these illegal drugs are being marketed in the name of making a profit, at the significant expense of a person’s health and well-being. The compounds in these substances not only harm the users, but users may also endanger loved ones, members of the public, our first responders, and our emergency room personnel who may have to deal with extremely violent and paranoid patients. Our task force is here and we will continue to bring these manufacturers and distributors to justice.”
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “The charges we are announcing today as part of ‘Operation Log Jam’ are great examples of law enforcement working together across the nation to wield the law’s might against a new, emerging danger to our citizenry, especially our children. The drugs may be synthetic but the danger is very real. Bath salts is a misleadingly innocent term for a substance that is, in reality, a highly toxic, very dangerous, and also illegal drug that can have serious, and sometimes fatal consequences. These defendants were allegedly operating a ‘soup to nuts’ operation – manufacturing, distributing and selling so-called bath salts in massive quantities. With their arrests, a significant supply chain has been dismantled.”
The following allegations are based on the Complaint unsealed yesterday in Manhattan federal court:
Since May 2012, the DEA has investigated the defendants and their businesses for mass manufacturing and distribution of bath salts. The defendants’ company, SmokeClear, manufactured and shipped bath salts from a warehouse in Newark, New Jersey. Bertoli and Capaccio owned the warehouse, and Messina sold large quantities of bath salts through street-level sales. The defendants marketed their products as aromatic or herbal incense and sold it in the form of packaged products labeled as, among other things, “UP,” “Earth FX,” and “Herbal Powder.”
During searches of the warehouse and of Messina’s vehicle, the DEA recovered thousands of packages of bath salts, and other substances and paraphernalia used to manufacture and distribute the drugs. The packages of bath salts were labeled as “UP,” which advertises itself as an “energizing aromatherapy powder” that, when burned in a “potpourri dish,” has a “stimulating and energizing aroma.” The packages seized from Messina’s vehicle and from the warehouse were submitted for laboratory testing and tested positive for alphapyrrolidinopentiophemone, a Schedule I controlled substance analogue.
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Bertoli, 36, Capaccio, 36, both of Newark, and Messina, 48, of Brooklyn, are each charged with conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. They each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum $1,000,000 fine.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the DEA New Jersey Field Division. Operation Log Jam was conducted jointly by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with assistance from the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the FBI, and the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, as well as countless state and local law enforcement members in more than 90 U.S. cities and targeted every level of the synthetic designer drug industry, including retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers.
The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam Fee, Elisha Kobre, and Russell Capone are in charge of the prosecution.
The charge and allegations contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.