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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Pennsylvania

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Luzerne County Man Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy To Distribute Bath Salts

SCRANTON—The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Robert Benussi, III, age 26, of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty today before Senior U.S. District Court Judge James M. Munley to participating in a conspiracy to distribute alpha-pvp, commonly known as “bath salts.”


According to United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, Benussi admitted to agreeing with others to distribute the drug to customers in the Luzerne County area during 2014 and 2015. The members of the conspiracy obtained the alpha-pvp from suppliers in China.


Benussi also admitted that he and others used force, threats, and intimidation in connection with the drug conspiracy.


Benussi was one of seven people charged by a grand jury in August 2016. That indictment was the fourth wave of arrests connected to alpha-pvp distribution in Luzerne County. In all, 18 people have been charged in the case since July 2013, including a Texas-based supplier of the bath salts. Benussi is the fourteenth defendant to plead guilty in the case.


Judge Munley ordered a pre-sentence investigation to be completed and scheduled sentencing in the case for May 19, 2017. Benussi is detained in prison pending sentencing.


“Homeland Security Investigations and our law enforcement partners will continue to use all resources at our disposal to detect and prevent the importation and distribution of dangerous chemicals and narcotics that continue to ravage our communities. The excellent investigative work in this case conducted by HSI Special Agents, our Task Force Officers from the Pennsylvania State Police, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service Inspectors directly resulted in the today’s guilty plea,” said Marlon V. Miller, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia, “These seizures and related arrests are another victory in ridding our communities of these poisons."

The investigation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations, United States Postal Inspectors, the Drug Enforcement Administration, members of the Pennsylvania State Police, and local police from Luzerne County. Assistant United States Attorney Francis P. Sempa is prosecuting the case.


A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.


The maximum penalty under federal law for this offense is 20 years’ imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.


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Drug Trafficking
Updated February 16, 2017