Cross Junction Man Pleads Guilty to Misbranding Charge
Law Enforcement Issues Warning to Public About Harmful Effects ofIngesting Unknown Substances
Harrisonburg, VIRGINIA – A Virginia man who purchased and later distributed misbranded drugs that were intentionally masked to look like candy pled guilty today in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Harrisonburg, Acting United States Attorney Rick A. Mountcastle announced.
Christopher Michael Sweeney II, 20, of Cross Junction, Va., pled guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, namely, with the intent to defraud and mislead, to ship and receive in interstate commerce a misbranded drug.
“This case underscores how extremely dangerous it is to take drugs, no matter how innocent they are made to appear, that are not clearly labeled with information such as the content, ingredients, and source. This dangerous synthetic drug was ruthlessly packaged to look like candy, sold by the defendant as Xanax and caused tragic harm to unsuspecting customers,” Acting United States Attorney Mountcastle said today. “I implore anyone who might be thinking about experimenting with drugs like this to stop and consider that you are putting your life and your health at risk. I am grateful for the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force, the Virginia State Police, the DEA, and AUSA Kulpa’s hard work and dedication in resolving this very difficult case and for their continued efforts against the drug epidemic in the Western District of Virginia.”
“With the dangers of non-controlled substances that are being falsely marketed and sold over the internet, law enforcement and prosecutors are having to constantly adjust and improve their investigative techniques,” said Supervisory Special Agent Josiah C. Schiavone, Coordinator of the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force for the Virginia State Police. “We are happy that in this case, through collaborative efforts, we were able to find a route to successful prosecution.”
“This case clearly demonstrates the dangers of purchasing illicit drugs off of the internet. Purchasers do not know the true contents of what they are purchasing to ingest and thereby are placing their safety and their lives in the hands of an unscrupulous manufacturer,” said Karl C. Colder, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Washington Field Division.
According to evidence presented at today’s guilty plea hearing by Assistant United States Attorney Erin M. Kulpa, should this case had gone to trial the United States would have proven that between June 2015 and September 2015, Sweeney purchased and received sugar tablet candies, or Smarties, laced with flubromazolam, a designer synthetic drug that is not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration and is not approved for human use because of its toxicity and other potential harmful effects. In some individuals, flubromazolam can cause and has caused serious bodily injury as a result of ingesting the substance.
In addition, the United States would have proven Sweeney purchased this substance via the “dark web” and that the substance was delivered on Smarties candies. They arrived delivered in packages that did not contain packing or labels listing the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer or distributor, did not have adequate directions for use or warnings against use in those pathological conditions or by children where its use may be dangerous to health or bore a label bearing the words “Rx Only.”
Sweeney purchased the Smarties in quantities of 100-300 tablets per purchase, at a price of approximately $0.38 per tablet. The defendant paid his co-conspirators using digital currency transfers through electronic media and had the Smarties mailed to him either at his home address or to a post office box, the United States would have proven at trial.
The defendant consumed, gave away or sold the Smarties he purchased from the “dark web.” Sweeney sold the Smarties for between $5-$8 per tablet. He referred to the tablets laced with flubromazolam as “Smarties” and told some customers they contained “Xanax,” and told some others the Smarties contained Xanax plus a research chemical that added intensity to its effect. The Smarties he distributed did not contain labeling identifying that they contained flubromazolam. During the time he was selling the Smarties, Sweeney acknowledged the powerful effects of the drug, noting to his customers that some people had blacked out from taking the drug and some had crashed their cars after taking the drug and driving.
The investigation of the case was conducted by Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force, the Virginia State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Assistant United States Attorney Erin M. Kulpa prosecuted the case for the United States.