Two men charged with selling illegal synthetic hallucinogens called "bath salts" from West Virginia head shops pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in West Virginia.
Jeremia Phillips, 30, and Derrick Calip, 40, were charged in April with selling the drugs, which can induce psychosis, from shops in Buckhannon and Clarksburg called Hot Stuff and Cool Things.
The owner of the shops, Jeff Paglia, 48, was also charged and has indicated he will enter a guilty plea.
His partner in the business, John Skruck, 56, a Texas strip club owner who employed Mr. Phillips and Mr. Calip, is awaiting trial.
The case is one of the largest bath salts prosecutions in the U.S. and by the far the biggest in West Virginia, where federal authorities say use of the drugs has grown dramatically.
Federal agents and police said customers lined up outside the Clarksburg store, located in a strip mall, to buy bath salts sold under such names as "Ivory Wave" and "Vanilla Sky."
Police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, together with the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS, spent months investigating Mr. Paglia and the others before launching a raid in April on both head shops.
Agents also seized 11 properties, several vehicles, and $750,000 in cash, all of which will be forfeited to the U.S.
U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld in Wheeling said the paranoia-inducing drugs have been causing teens and young adults to act in bizarre ways across the state, such as mutilating themselves while hallucinating, with many ending up in the hospital.
At the time of the arrests, he said West Virginia had the highest number of medical incidents involving bath salts in the country. The highest concentration of those incidents was in Harrison County, where the Clarksburg store is located.