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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Iowa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, June 13, 2014

Waterloo Convenience Store Manager Pleads Guilty To Distributing Synthetic Drug Known As "Bath Salts"

Earl James Ramos, age 26, from Waterloo, Iowa, who managed a convenience store in Waterloo where he sold synthetic drugs commonly known as “bath salts” pled guilty today in federal court in Cedar Rapids.

Ramos was convicted of distributing pentedrone, an illegal controlled substance analogue under federal law.  The term “controlled substance analogue” refers to substances that are chemically similar to, and have substantially similar or greater effects on humans than substances in Schedule I or II.  “Controlled substance analogues” are illegal under federal law if intended for human consumption.  Pentedrone is in the class of substances commonly referred to as “bath salts,” and is a synthetic form of the Schedule I stimulant methcathinone. 

At the plea hearing, Ramos admitted he distributed pentedrone to another person in Waterloo on October 2, 2012.  He also admitted he knew the pentedrone was intended to be used for human consumption. 

According to information in the public court record, Ramos was the manager of the Five Star Snacks and I-Wireless store in Waterloo, Iowa.  Beginning in at least 2012, Ramos began selling synthetic controlled substances from the Five Star Snacks store and in other locations, upon request of certain customers.  The synthetic controlled substances included synthetic cannabinoids (commonly referred to as “K2,” “incense,” “potpourri,” “Spice,” among other names) and synthetic cathinones (commonly referred to as “bath salts”). sold synthetic cannabinoid products with the “brand” names of Mr. Nice Guy, KMA, 101, Caution, California Dreams, Diablo, Hydro Kush, King Kong, Mr. Happy, Insane, and Hydro 777.  Ramos sold synthetic cathinones under the “brand” names of “Diamond,” White Angel,” “Pump It,” and “Blue.”  The substance contained in the containers of “Diamond” and “Pump It” was pentedrone. The substances contained in the containers of “Blue” were α-PVP.  As of May 16, 2013, α-PVP became a Schedule I controlled substance. 

Court records also reflect that in May 2012 law enforcement seized “K2” products from the store.  At some point after this seizure, the store again began to sell the products, but kept them hidden from view and only sold to known individuals.

Ramos’s store and residence in Waterloo were searched in June 2013.  During the search, officers seized a total of 1294 packets of suspected synthetic cannabinoids and 418 units of suspected synthetic cathinones.  Ramos was again told by officers not to sell the synthetic controlled substances because it was against the law to do so.  Court records reflect that Ramos initially stopped selling synthetic controlled substances from Five Star Snacks.  In at least November 2013, however, Ramos again began selling the synthetic controlled substance products from the Five Star Snacks and I Wireless.  On December 23, 2013, January 3, 2014, and February 10, 2014, members of DNE and TCDETF again conducted controlled purchases of “bath salts” from Ramos at the Five Star Snacks/I Wireless in Waterloo, Iowa. 

On March 10, 2014, officers again conducted search warrants at Ramos’s residence and the Five Star Snacks and I Wireless.  During the searches, officers seized 19 packages of synthetic cannabinoids labeled “Diablo Platinum” and 87 containers of “Blue.”  Some of the packages of “Diablo Platinum” were located on a shelf in plain view on a shelf in the office area of the Five Star Snacks.  Officers also found Ramos’s loaded, 9 mm Ruger pistol on top of some cigar boxes within arm’s reach of the Diablo Platinum.  The “Diablo Platinum” was sent to the DCI laboratory, which determined the substance contained in the packages was XLR-11, a Schedule I controlled substance.  In all, officers found approximately 59.48 grams of XLR-11 in Ramos’s possession on March 10, 2014.  The DCI laboratory also determined that the containers of “Blue” (both purchased during the controlled buys and seized by officers during the March 10 search) contained approximately 32.0255 grams of the Schedule I Controlled Substance α-PVP.

Sentencing before United States District Court Chief Judge Linda R. Reade will be set after a presentence report is prepared.  Ramos was taken into custody by the United States Marshal after the guilty plea and will remain in custody pending sentencing.  Ramos faces a possible maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment, a $1,000,000 fine, $100 in special assessments, and up to a lifetime term of supervised release following any imprisonment.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dan Chatham and was investigated by as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program of the United States Department of Justice through a cooperative effort of the Tri-County Drug Enforcement Task Force; the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Task Force consisting of the DEA; the Linn County Sheriff's Office; the Cedar Rapids Police Department; the Marion Police Department; the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement; and the Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Department of Homeland Security; and the Internal Revenue Service. 

Court file information is available at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.  The case file number is CR14-2014-1-LRR.

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Updated February 19, 2015