MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (CBSDC/AP) — The owner of two paraphernalia shops called “Hot Stuff and Cool Things” and three of his employees were indicted Wednesday on federal drug conspiracy charges for allegedly selling bath salts and synthetic marijuana.
U.S. District Chief Judge John Preston Bailey, meanwhile, issued an order shutting down Paglia’s stores indefinitely.
The 11-count indictment issued by a federal grand jury in Elkins targets owner Jeffrey Paglia, 48, of Clarksburg, and his two companies, Jemrose Inc. and Pag-Corp Inc. It also names Jemrose manager John Skruck, 56, and two employees of the Buckhannon and Clarksburg stores, 30-year-old Jeremia Phillips and 40-year-old Derrick Calip. All are of Clarksburg.
Each is charged with eight counts of drug conspiracy and two counts of maintaining a drug-involved property for sales in September and January.
Bath salts are synthetic drugs that the indictment says comes with a side effect that could potentially cause people to “commit acts of violence, hallucinate, and commit acts of self-mutilation,” among other things.
Prosecutors have asked the courts to detain Paglia until trial, noting that he is facing the possibility of more than 10 years in prison. That motion calls him a flight risk and a possible threat to the safety of others. Paglia was arrested Wednesday morning, and U.S. Magistrate John Kaull scheduled a hearing on the detention request for April 23.
“Synthetic drugs have quickly become a major problem in West Virginia and we’re fighting back,” U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld said in a prepared statement. The indictments and shutdown “should send a strong message that the federal government is cracking down on the sale of ‘bath salts’ and synthetic cannabis and that the sale of this poison will not be tolerated.”
Paglia and Jemrose Inc. are also charged with one count of structuring monetary transactions to evade reporting requirements. Federal law requires financial transactions of more than $10,000 to be reported to the Internal Revenue Service, and prosecutors say Paglia structured bank deposits totaling $747,430 over a six-month period last year to evade that law.
“Most people don’t realize that some of the businesses that engage in the sale of these substances are generating millions of dollars in revenues,” Ihlenfeld said. “These ventures can be very profitable for the individual owners and at the same time be very taxing on the communities in which they operate.”
Ihlenfeld said the stores’ closings will cut off the major supply of bath salts in north-central West Virginia, and users could start to suffer from withdrawal. He said United Summit Center/United Hospital Center and the Valley Health Care System will accept anyone who needs treatment, regardless of their ability to pay.
Calls to the stores went to full voice mail boxes Wednesday. The defendants either had no individual telephone listings or had disconnected numbers, so it was not immediately clear whether they have attorneys.
Court records also show prosecutors are moving to seize property belonging to the defendants, including vehicles, real estate and $750,000 in cash. It’s also seeking an order for a judgment of $2.5 million.
The indictment says the drugs sold in each transaction contained a variety of controlled substances, which were not suitable or intended for human consumption.
It says the products sold were marketed under the names Ivory Wave, Ivory Wave Ultra, Red Dove, Ocean Snow, Recharge Extra and Sextacy.
The Clarksburg store made news last fall when the stepfather of a missing 3-year-old girl testified in court that he’d bought bath salts there on multiple occasions.
Ralph Lunsford was appearing before a judge in the welfare fraud case against his wife, Lena Lunsford, who is currently awaiting sentencing.
Lena’s 3-year-old daughter Aliayah vanished from the family’s rented Lewis County home on Sept. 24 and hasn’t been seen since. Authorities have made no arrests and named no suspects. Nor will they say whether they believe she’s still alive.
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