The owner of two West Virginia strip-mall head shops at the heart of one of the largest bath salts prosecutions in the U.S. pleaded guilty this morning to drug distribution and structuring monetary transactions to avoid detection as part of a money-laundering scheme.
Jeff Paglia, 48, admitted in federal court in West Virginia that he sold the synthetic hallucinogens from his Hot Stuff and Cool Things stores in Buckhannon and Clarksburg, where customers lined up every morning to get their fix.
As part of his plea, he agreed to cooperate with federal authorities, including providing grand jury testimony.
Two underlings also have pleaded guilty, but Mr. Paglia's business partner, Texas strip club owner John Skruck, is awaiting trial.
In addition to his plea, Mr. Paglia agreed to forfeit 11 properties in West Virginia and numerous vehicles bought with the proceeds from bath salts sales.
The U.S. attorney's office in Wheeling said West Virginia has had more incidents of bizarre behavior, crime and emergency room visits connected to bath salts use than any other state, and that Harrison County, where Mr. Paglia's Clarksburg store was located, led the state in such incidents.
President Obama signed a law this summer banning the chemicals in bath salts, making permanent a temporary ban imposed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
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