DEA Agent outside one of the shops allegedly selling “bath salts.”
MANHATTAN, NY. - John Gilbride, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the arrest against a major distributor of "bath salts," a recreational designer drug with significant and dangerous adverse effects. Nine employees of retail shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn that sold the drug were also arrested. Charged today are the distributor, Miguel Ashby, and Sellers Maxim Amar, Diana Asaro, Nassar Atrach, Yakob Biton, Dimitry Farber, Sufiyan Ganchi, Gabrielle Grife, Igor Kanchik, and Steve Zhik.
“Nationwide the abuse of ‘bath salts’ has led to serious health consequences and death. This investigation is further evidence that DEA and our law enforcement partners will not sit by while a new form of drug abuse takes hold,” said Gilbride. “Let this be a message to not only those who sell this poison, but to those who abuse ‘bath salts’ that this road leads to a dead end.”
"Bath salts are one of the latest designer drugs to reach our shores, and they have proven to be a public health and safety menace with serious, and sometimes deadly, consequences,” said Bharara. “The investigation that culminated in today’s arrests should demonstrate the seriousness with which we and our law enforcement partners at the DEA take the threat posed by this drug, and the consequences for those who would distribute and sell it."
According to the complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court today: Since February 2011, the DEA’s New York Field Division has been investigating the importation, distribution, and use of "bath salts," which are synthetic stimulants that have no real value as a bath salt or other bath product. Their only known purpose is to be consumed as a recreational drug. "Bath salts" first emerged in the United States approximately two years ago. The drug is typically snorted in powder form or ingested in pill form, but it can also be smoked or injected intravenously. While its affects may vary, users typically experience highs similar to that of the drug Ecstasy, and stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines. Adverse effects include psychotic episodes, delusions, panic attacks, and increased heart rate. The abuse of "bath salts" has been linked to death, suicide, homicide, self-inflicted wounds, and child endangerment. Companies located in China and India are principally responsible for manufacturing and exporting the drug. Shippers typically mislabel the product to evade detection by law enforcement, and sell it via the Internet to distributors around the world, including in the United States. U.S. distributors then sell the drug online, through traditional distribution methods, or by retail distribution at convenience stores, gas stations, and head shops (retail stores specializing in drug paraphernalia).
"Bath salts" are also often sold in dance clubs and at underground parties known as "raves". They typically sell for approximately $40 to $100 per gram, and each packet contains approximately one quarter to one gram. A gram consists of approximately eight to 40 doses.
Packets of "bath salts” are branded with names such as "Aura," "Ivory Wave," "Russian River," "Xtreme," "Goodfellas," and other. They are often labeled "not for human consumption" in an effort to circumvent federal narcotics laws. Despite these warnings, sellers market "bath salts" as recreational drugs.
In February 2011, the DEA Field Office in New York established a Bath Salts Task Force ("BSTF") to investigate sellers of the drug in the greater New York City area. From February to June 2011, the BSTF investigated a number of different head shops and stores that reportedly sold "bath salts," including those where the nine defendants worked. They are all located in Manhattan, with the exception of one, which is located in Brooklyn, New York. The investigation revealed that ASHBY supplied "bath salts" to the stores that employed Farber, Kanchik, Grife, and Zhik. The investigation also found that Amar, Asaro, Atrach,
Biton, Ganchi, Farber, Grife, Kanchik, and Zhik sold the drug out of the head shops where they each worked. Using undercover agents, which were recorded by the DEA, the BSTF purchased over a kilogram of "bath salts" in total from the stores. During the undercover buys, certain of the defendants discussed how to ingest the "bath salts," and one boasted that the use of "bath salts" would not appear in a urinalysis. The BSTF seized approximately 40 kilograms of the drug during the course of the investigation, valued at approximately $2 million on the street.
Subsequent to the New York State Health Commissioner’s May 23, 2011, ban on the sale and distribution of "bath salts," several of the defendants employed at the head shops represented that they continued to have the drug available for sale, and one defendant represented that he could obtain additional "bath salts" to sell.
The defendants were arrested this morning and will be presented in Magistrate Court later today. A chart setting forth the charges in the Complaint and the applicable penalties is attached. Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the DEA New York Field Office.
The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Santosh Aravind and Timothy Sini are in charge of the prosecution.