An international drug trafficking ring being fed by Chinese synthetics met its end with the arrests of 54 people across the United States, and multiple arrests in Canada and Europe.
“This international investigation shows one path by which massive quantities of synthetic drugs can enter our communities,” said U.S. Attorney William Hochul, Jr. in a press release.
The bust was announced by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a press release on Sept 16. Several other branches of law enforcement took part in the investigation, including Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the New York State Police.
The investigation started around June 2012, when investigators allegedly found a group of eight people in New York State getting their synthetic drugs from a supplier located in China.
China is one of the main suppliers of synthetic drugs into the United States, Mexico, and Latin America. Chemicals from China are feeding the meth epidemic in the United states, and the psychoactive epidemic in Central America.
The individuals in New York State were mainly importing Methylone, a stimulant that has a chemical structure close to 3,4-methyelenedioxymethamphetamine also called MDMA or ecstasy.
Methylone is becoming more and more popular as a club drug, and is confirmed to have killed two people so far in New York City, according to the press release. Jeffrey Russ, who died at the Electric Zoo festival recently, had taken a lethal mixture of Methylone and MDMA.
Law enforcement broadened their investigation by obtaining a court order to intercept communications from the email address used by the supplier in China, and over the course of 30 days, they generated more than 450 leads.
The leads led to 54 arrests around the United States. Agents seized among other things more than 70 kilograms of Methylone, several kilograms of cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA, more than $50,000 in cash, and several firearms.
Investigators also found the Chinese supplier was shipping synthetic drugs to other countries, including Canada, Germany, Austria, Finland, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Lithuania.
DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian Crowell said in the press release that synthetic drugs are a growing problem. He said there has been a 300 percent increase in poison centers around the country with calls related to synthetic drugs.
“We are seeing street dealers selling something with a catchy name such as ‘molly,’ and in fact it’s poisonous synthetic chemicals made in labs in China,” Crowell said. “Overdoses from ingesting these types of chemicals are extremely dangerous and unforgiving.”
The eight individuals arrested in New York State are Joshua Buerman, 25; Michele Hess, 21; Kevin Willard, 21; Andrew Bosch, 28; Madhu Ashok, 21; Lance Minielly, 23; Jesse James Macaveny, 20; and Rita Levy Panzica, 18.
All eight individuals are being charged with conspiracy to import and distribute significant quantities of Methylone. They are each facing up to 20 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine, or both.