County attorneys in Arizona who have targeted the proliferation of legal synthetic drugs like “spice” and “bath salts” are reportedly seeing their efforts make their way into the courtroom.
The Arizona Republic reports that a federal indictment filed late last week in U.S. District Court in Phoenix reveals the international scope of the conspiracy to traffic those drugs and the large amounts of money that may be involved.
Federal prosecutors allege Nicholas Pascal Zizzo and Michael Rocky Lane shopped around the world for someone who could supply them with a legal version of MDPV, a chemical that the federal government had recently prohibited and was used in the manufacture of bath salts. The men secured the chemicals legally from China and made a few other cosmetic changes to remain on the right side of the law, according to court documents.
“After October of 2011, defendant Zizzo and others ceased using the name ‘Eight Ballz Bath Salts’ and started utilizing the name ‘Eight Ballz Ultra Premium Glass Cleaner,’ ” according to the indictment.
The new chemicals were legal, but a 1986 law makes it illegal to manufacture, distribute or possess substances that have a similar effect on the nervous system as banned drugs, the newspaper reports.
By late 2011, when the federal Drug Enforcement Administration took action to outlaw three chemicals commonly found in bath salts, the potential dangers of synthetic drugs were already well-known. Nearly a year earlier, federal officials had banned five chemicals commonly found in the synthetic marijuana-like substance commonly called spice amid reports of frantic teens showing up in emergency rooms around the nation strung out on the legal chemicals.
And invoking that law in criminal prosecutions in Arizona is unique, said Bruce Feder, an attorney for Lane who has practiced for 35 years and is aware of one other case where the Analogue Act was cited.
“Something must have happened in the Justice Department to precipitate these indictments,” Feder said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona did not respond to a request for comment about this case or the government’s efforts to target synthetic drugs in general, the newspaper reports.
The federal sting that originally took down Lane, Zizzo and three others was part of a nationwide undercover operation in late July known as “Operation Logjam.” The local defendants were done in by federal agents posing as Hells Angels who purchased 2,500 powder packets of “Eight Ballz” from one of the defendants, Benjamin J. Lowenstein, in a late June meeting at a parking lot on Thunderbird Road, according to a federal affidavit.
Federal officials have speculated that the Arizona suspects generated “tens of millions of dollars” in profits.