ASHLAND, KY — A father and his two sons received federal prison sentences today for their roles in a scheme which involved importing kilograms of a drug comparable to methamphetamine from overseas and selling it in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. U.S. District Court Judge David L. Bunning sentenced 59-year-old Ralph Edwin Justice to 54 months in prison and 32-year-old Adam Conrad Justice to 36 months in prison for conspiring to distribute a controlled substance analogue. Eric Christopher Justice, 30, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.
Ralph Justice led the conspiracy and he and his son Adam admitted in their plea agreements that they conspired to distribute 17 kilograms of the substance known as 4-Methylmethcathine, commonly referred to as mephedrone, from April of 2010 until January 2011. Mephedrone is a synthetic stimulant sold under the guise of being a bath salt or plant food. This is the first federal prosecution in Kentucky involving mephedrone.
Court documents state that 35-year-old Christopher Newman, a family friend of the Justices, received shipments of the mephedrone from India and drove the shipments from his residence in Garrison, Ky., to Ralph Justice’s business in Ironton, Ohio. After Newman dropped the drug off, Justice and his two sons packaged the drug at Justice’s business as Ivory Bath Salts to avoid law enforcement detection. They sold the drug at the business and to retail shops in West Virginia and Kentucky as well as to buyers over the Internet. Newman was also sentenced today; he received 24 months in federal prison for possessing with intent to distribute a controlled substance analogue.
“Today’s sentences demonstrate that law enforcement intends to hold accountable those who try to make mephedrone available for public consumption,” said Kerry B. Harvey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. “We hope this case will raise awareness about this dangerous drug for people across the Eastern District of Kentucky. Parents and guardians should note DEA reports which show mephedrone distributors are targeting teenagers and young adults and sell the drug in retail shops, convenient stores and on the internet as a legal product.”
The Justices and Newman also manufactured and sold synthetic marijuana which contained an active chemical (JWH-018) that has been temporarily scheduled by the DEA. In January of this year authorities executed a search warrant at Ralph Justice’s business in Ohio and found between two and three kilograms of mephedrone, packaged synthetic marijuana ready for sale, and materials capable of producing between 500 and 700 pounds of synthetic marijuana. The synthetic marijuana was sold as incense by the defendants to avoid detection from law enforcement. Court documents indicate that the organization made approximately $200,000 from the sale of both drugs.
The defendants in this case were involved in a conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance analogue (Methymethcathinone). Under federal law, a controlled substance analogue is defined as a substance that is intended for human consumption and has a chemical structure to a drug listed in Schedule I or Schedule II. In addition, it has a similar effect on the body as the listed drug, or is intended by the seller to have such effect.
Kerry B. Harvey, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Robert L. Corso, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Paul Chambers, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and Rodney C. Brewer, Kentucky State Police Commissioner (KSP) jointly announced the sentence.
The investigation was conducted by DEA, ICE, CBP, FDA and KSP. Robert Duncan Jr. represented the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this case.