Two Luzerne County Residents Charged Federally For Distribution Of Prohibited “Bath Salts”
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, announced that a federal grand jury returned an indictment on July 9, 2013 charging two Luzerne County residents with Conspiracy to Distribute Alpha-PVP, a prohibited controlled substance. The two individuals were arrested on July 10.
According to United States Attorney Peter J. Smith, Todd Morgans, 34, and Christine Policare, 20, both of West Pittston, Pennsylvania, were charged by the grand jury with Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance Analogue. The offense allegedly occurred between December 2011 and July 2013 in and around West Pittston, PA and nearby communities in Luzerne County.
Alpha-PVP is a controlled substance analogue of MDPV, which is commonly referred to as “bath salts”. A controlled substance analogue is a chemically similar substance which has a substantially similar effect on the central nervous system as that of the Schedule I substance.
The Indictment contains a forfeiture allegation seeking to forfeit Morgans’ residence at 217 Liberty Street, West Pittston, PA; two bank accounts; a Chevy Colorado Z-71 truck and a money judgment in the amount of $700,000, representing the proceeds of the conspiracy.
The defendants were arrested early Wednesday morning at the 217 Liberty Street house. In conjunction with the arrests, a federal search warrant was executed at the Liberty Street residence by the Pennsylvania State Police Special Emergency Response Team. The entry team encountered fortified doors and counter surveillance equipment believed to be installed to evade law enforcement. Investigators seized approximately 2000 grams of Alpha-PVP, drug packaging materials, scales, three (3) firearms, ammunition and approximately $40,000 in cash.
Based on what was found at the residence and information obtained during the investigation, the alleged drug distribution ring is allegedly linked to the Aryan Brotherhood organization. White supremacist paraphernalia was found in the residence. The residence was allegedly the main location for the organization’s distribution of bath salts and the meeting place for an Aryan Brotherhood Chapter led by Morgans. The investigation of this organization remains ongoing.
U.S. Attorney Smith noted that bath salts and MDPV analogues are highly dangerous drugs often causing extreme irrational behavior on the part of the individuals who use them, increasing the potential for harm to residents and other innocent bystanders. As a result, a dwelling used as a storage or distribution site for such drugs is both a public safety and health hazard. The substance appears to come to the United States from Asia. Finding the source of the drugs is part of the ongoing investigation.
The defendants, who are currently incarcerated, are scheduled to appear Friday July 12 starting at 10:30 A.M. before United States District Court Judge Malachy E. Mannion for a detention hearing.
The maximum sentence for the offense is imprisonment for 20 years, a fine of $1,000,000 and supervised release for a period of at least 3 years.
This case is the result of a joint investigation and ongoing cooperation among the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Pennsylvania State Police, The United States Postal Inspection Service, the West Pittston Police Department, Jenkins Township Police Department, and the Pittston City Police Department.
Prosecution is assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Amy C. Phillips.
An Indictment or Information is not evidence of guilt but simply a description of the charge made by the Grand Jury and/or United States Attorney against a defendant. A charged Defendant is presumed innocent until a jury returns a unanimous finding that the United States has proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt or until the defendant has pleaded guilty to the charges.
A sentence following a finding of guilty is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
In this case, the maximum penalty under the federal statute 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.