Four men were sentenced Monday in the first federal prosecution in Kentucky involving a synthetic drug that is comparable to methamphetamine.
The drug, 4-methylmethcathine, or mephedrone, is a stimulant sometimes sold under the pretense of being bath salts or plant food.
Ralph Edwin Justice, 59, his sons Adam Conrad Justice, 32, and Eric Christopher Justice, 30, all of Grayson; and Christopher Newman, 35, of Garrison, were involved in a scheme to import 17 kilograms of the drug from overseas to sell in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia from April 2010 until January, according to a news release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Newman, a friend of the Justices, received the drug from India and took it from his home in Garrison to Ralph Justice's business in Ironton, Ohio. There, the Justices repackaged the drug as "Ivory Bath Salts" to keep police from identifying it, the U.S. attorney said.
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The drugs were sold at Ralph Justice's business, on the Internet and at Kentucky and West Virginia shops.
The four also manufactured and sold synthetic marijuana containing the chemical JWH-018, which has been temporarily classified as a scheduled drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Scheduled drugs are considered highly addictive. A search of Justice's business in January yielded packaged synthetic marijuana and materials capable of producing 500 to 700 pounds of the drug, which was sold as incense to avoid detection by police.
The scheme generated about $200,000, the release states.
Newman was sentenced to 24 months in prison for possessing with intent to distribute a controlled substance analogue.
Ralph Justice, who the U.S. Attorney says led the conspiracy, was sentenced to 54 months, and Adam Justice was sentenced to 36 months, both for conspiring to distribute a controlled substance analogue. Eric Justice was sentenced to 20 months for introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.
Kerry B. Harvey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, said he hoped the case would raise public awareness about mephedrone.
"Parents and guardians should note DEA reports which show mephedrone distributors are targeting teenagers and young adults and sell the drug in retail shops, convenient stores and on the Internet as a legal product," he said in the release.
Last week, the DEA used its emergency scheduling authority to make mephedrone a scheduled drug, meaning it is illegal to sell or possess it or any products containing it for at least a year while the agency studies it further.