A grand jury has indicted five Fairfax residents in connection with a drug ring that, investigators say, smuggled designer drugs from China and peddled them in Northern Virginia, starting in mid-2011.
Matthew Scott Baker, Joshua Leonard Malinowski Clougherty, Kyle Benjamin Griswold, Shelby Sines Neal and Ethan Paul Walker were charged with conspiracy to distribute methylone in federal court on Tuesday. Baker was also charged with use of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.
Authorities say Baker ordered methylone -- which has been temporarily classified as a "schedule 1" drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration -- from suppliers in China, receiving shipments of the drug through the U.S. Postal Service. Over the course of a months-long investigation by undercover cops, according to court documents, police found that Baker was selling a substance referred to as "Molly" for thousands of dollars for just a few ounces.
"Molly" is a colloquial name for an ecstasy-like hallucinogen that became legal in 2004, but Baker was charged with selling methylone, a substance found in drugs known as "bath salts" or "plant food." It's unclear whether Baker was marketing the methylone he sold as "bath salts." DEA officials said methylone typically sells for about $1,000 to $1,200 an ounce on the street.
"[Methylone] produces severe effects that have resulted in psychosis and emergency room visits and deaths," said Barbara Carreno, a DEA spokeswoman. "Bath salts" have been involved in several high-profile criminal cases over the past several months, with users exhibiting severe psychosis and often becoming violent towards themselves and others.
Those involved in the ring would communicate over Facebook and AOL Instant Messenger about selling methylone, according to court documents, and Baker would sell methylone he'd received from China to the other members of the group. Undercover police detectives bought the drug from Baker and his co-conspirators on a number of occasions, at one point spending $3,800 for eight ounces of methylone.
Baker also unlawfully kept a gun to further the drug trafficking ring, prosecutors said in court documents.
Baker, Walker, Neal and Clougherty are currently not in federal custody, and they are set to appear in court on July 20. Court documents were unclear on Griswold's status.