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Press Release

Cross Junction Man Sentenced for Misbranding Flubromazolam

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia

Harrisonburg, VIRGINIA – A Virginia man who purchased and later distributed a misbranded drug that was intentionally masked to look like candy was sentenced yesterday 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, 21, of Cross Junction, Va., was sentenced yesterday to four years in federal prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Sweeney pled guilty on February 3, 2017, to one count of conspiracy to ship and receive a misbranded drug in interstate commerce with the intent to defraud and mislead.


According to evidence presented at the earlier guilty plea hearing and at yesterday’s sentencing, between June 2015 and September 2015, Sweeney bought Smarties candy laced with flubromazolam on the “dark web” and resold it, at substantial profit. Flubromazolam is a designer synthetic drug not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for human consumption because it is toxic and can cause serious bodily injury or even death when ingested. However, at the time Sweeney illegally trafficked in it, flubromazolam was not listed as a scheduled drug under either federal or state law. The Commonwealth of Virginia has since listed it as a Schedule I drug.


Sweeney misleadingly told his customers the substance was “Xanax” or “like Xanax,” even though he knew some of his purchasers were blacking out and having car accidents after taking it. On September 21, 2015, distributed Smarties laced with flubromazolam to a female victim, who formerly resided in Winchester, Virginia. That flubromazolam contributed to the female victim’s overdose and death.


“It is unfortunate that we could only prosecute this serious crime with tragic consequences under the FDA’s misbranding statute,” said Acting United States Attorney Mountcastle. “Sweeney distributed this dangerous drug for profit by disguising it as candy and falsely claiming that it was Xanax, ruthlessly ignoring the substantial risk of death posed by this drug. My heart goes out to parents of the young victim and I deeply regret that the unscheduled nature of this drug precluded a prosecution for more serious crimes. I commend AUSA Erin Kulpa, the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force, the Virginia State Police, and the Drug Enforcement Administration for bringing Sweeney to justice.”


“This is a great example of the challenge that law enforcement faces in a society where there are constantly evolving controlled substance analogues that are being produced abroad and ordered by utilizing the dark web. We are pleased to have a successful prosecution and even more so that flubromazolam is now recognized as a Schedule I controlled substance in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Supervisory Special Agent Josiah C. Schiavone, Coordinator of the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force for the Virginia State Police. “The successful prosecution was the result of excellent collaboration between the United States Attorney’s Office of the Western District, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force.”


“When you buy drugs from an unscrupulous distributor, who’s only concern is their own profit, you take an unnecessary risk with your own life which may end in tragic consequences. The complexity of the laws regarding synthetic drugs and the use of the dark web made this a difficult case to prosecute,” said DEA Washington Division Special Agent in Charge Karl C. Colder. “We are pleased to be part of the successful prosecution team in this investigation.”


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.

Updated June 29, 2017