Ever wonder where those so-called "bath salts" come from? You know, the synthetic marijuana or cocaine that's often marketed as "spice? The colorfully packaged chemical potpourri that supposedly cause people to go nuts and turn into zombies, but which more often provide a mildly hallucinogenic buzz?
It's long been known that Southern California is an epicenter of the manufacture of synthetic pot, and that the chemicals that make up the drug are surreptitiously shipped into the country from China. And now federal authorities say they've taken one of the largest spice networks operating in the country, whose ringleaders hail from Orange County.
On Fri., June 13, federal drug agents busted Sean Libbert, 38, of tony Newport Coast, and Kyle Kledzik, 26, of Dana Point, charging them with smuggling and distributing millions of dollars worth of spice across the country. The feds further charged four Chinese nationals in the scheme, including Jin Liu, who is currently being held in Jacksonville, Florida.
According to an article in the Daily Beast, the case goes back to 2011, when Libbert and Kledzik mailed six grams of synthetic weed to a customer in Virginia who suffered such terrible effects after smoking it that the duo could receive a term of life in prison if convicted, the Beast reported.
Libbert, who has an "extensive" criminal history and was arrested with firearms, appears to have been the mastermind of the operation. He allegedly made repeated trips to Hong Kong in which he met with his Chinese suppliers and gave them advice on how to package and label the product. He also came up with an elaborate network of shell companies in California and other states that were used to launder the cash.
And what a lot of cash it was. From March 2010 until July 2012, Libbert's network smuggled more than 300 kilograms of chemicals into the U.S., a haul authorities estimate to be worth more than $1.4 million. Libbert et al also allegedly purchased more than 300 kilograms of chemicals from U.S. suppliers and sold more than $12 million in synthetic weed across the country marketed under the name "Da Kine Blend."