You are here

Justice News

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Scranton Man Charged With Importing Synthetic Canaboids From China

SCRANTON—The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that John Verkitus, age 53, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, was indicted on March 13, 2018, by a federal grand jury for importing into the United States synthetic canaboids, which are controlled substance analogues.  The case was unsealed on March 14, 2018, following Verkitus’ plea of not guilty entered before United States Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick. 

According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, the indictment alleges that Verkitus obtained the drugs from China during 2015 and 2016. The indictment identifies the synthetic canaboid as “Naphthalen-1-yl 1-(5-fluoropentyl)-1H-indole-3carboxylate,” also known as NM-2201.

Under federal law, controlled substance analogues, which are chemically similar to controlled substances in Schedules I or II, to the extent they are intended for human consumption, are treated as controlled substances

The charge against Verkitus stems from an investigation by special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Scranton Police. Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis P. Sempa is prosecuting the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program that has been historically successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made turning the tide of rising violent crime in America a top priority.   In October 2017, as part of a series of actions to address this crime trend, Attorney General Sessions announced the reinvigoration of PSN and directed all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to develop a district crime reduction strategy that incorporates the lessons learned since PSN launched in 2001.

Indictments and Criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.

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 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.


# # #

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Updated March 15, 2018