UPDATE 11/13/12 @ 7 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A major synthetic drug supplier admits he was pushing millions of dollars worth of bath salts and faces up to two decades in prison.
Nutragenomics owner Drew T. Green pleaded guilty in Louisiana to conspiracy to distribute and misbrand synthetic drugs. He's also facing money laundering charges.
Green was convicted of supplying 25 states with bath salts and making millions, according to court documents obtained by WSAZ.com.
Nutragenomics is banned from doing business in West Virginia after Attorney General Darrel McGraw filed a lawsuit in April and was granted an injunction against any company trying to market or distribute synthetic drugs.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Stonestreet tells WSAZ.com that Nutragenomics is now bankrupt, and several indictments are helping put a dent in bath salts supply.
"Based on what happened here -- that should be a warning to suppliers that the very same thing could happen to them," Stonestreet said. "There's no more selling this stuff and getting off scot-free."
After one of our initial stories aired on WSAZ, it caught the attention of attorney generals in other states and the federal government. Ongoing efforts shifted their focus toward Green.
Along with nine others, Green was arrested and indicted. He allegedly made his money by importing and then dealing the drugs. He admitted he knew the products were meant for users and that they imitated the effects of cocaine and meth.
"These were people were doing actually a partially successful job at dodging regulators and thwarting the law," Stonestreet said.
Green will be sentenced in January 2013. He faces up to 20 years in prison and may be forced to pay up to a $1 million fine.
Packaged as something safe, bath salts are what took Pamela Harmon's life. For nearly two years, her sister Deborah Walton has prayed for justice.
"I mean, now they're happy tears and I can talk about this because I got the best news in the world," Walton said. "They got this guy, and he pleaded guilty."
Walton has tried to track down the ring leaders of synthetic drug suppliers. She's filed a lawsuit and has tired to get answers. She became speechless when she heard about the indictments.
"My sister is worth everything to me in my life, and I wasn't going to stop until I got him," Walton said. "I mean, now they're happy tears."
Walton wants to see Green pay for her sister's headstone since she holds him responsible for her sister's death.
Green is also the founder and president of a non-profit organization that is supposed to help drug abusers. The foundation's goal was to fund research of various chemicals.
Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.
Nutragenomics Manufacturing, LLC was recently sued by West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw, and signed an order Wednesday agreeing to stop selling and advertising its bath salts and other synthetic drug chemicals in the state.
"Anytime you can get the distributor to sign an order and say we're not doing business in your state anymore, that's going to be a good thing," assistant attorney general Matthew Stonestreet said.
Under the court order, Nutragenomics must place a notice on all of its web pages that it is banned from selling to West Virginia residents.
The Attorney General says the company uses advertising practices that are deceiving and claim the chemical compounds are safe and legal when they're not.
"There's pretty much no way that they can develop a secret formula to avoid compliance with that law," Stonestreet said.
Bath salts are what took Pamela Harmon's life and now her sister and others are working to keep these chemicals from crossing into the state.
"She was so beautiful," Deborah Walton said. "And for somebody to make this crap and make money off of it and for people to die because they're making money it's not fair, it's not fair to the families."
Manufacturers have long looked for loopholes in state law to call the products legal. Investigators say one of the biggest suppliers is that Georgia-based company, Neutragenomics.
The attorney general says the designer drugs have been shown to cause seizures, psychosis and death and that Nutragenomics violated the state's criminal code.
One of those victims was Walton's sister who is now prepared to file a complaint with the attorney general to send a strong message and push to cut off the supply at the source.
"It's not right," Walton said. "They have to be stopped one way or another and if we go together maybe we can shut them down."
Part of the agreement says the company has to provide a database identifying all customers in West Virginia from 2008 until now and the amount sold.
The attorney general says the investigation is ongoing but would not say if other chemical companies are being targeted.
If you or someone you know has seen bath salts or know of a business selling them, call the attorney general's office and file a complaint. All products are illegal in West Virginia.
ORIGINAL STORY 4/30/12
PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A company accused of selling the ingredients to make synthetic drugs is being sued by the Attorney General's office in West Virginia.
The company, Nutragenomics Manufacturing, is actually in Georgia. Thanks to the Internet, though, its products are illegally making their way to the Mountain State.
“Every day, we see the devastation that it causes,” Metro Drug Unit Commander A.C. Napier said.
Synthetic drugs include incense, K2, bath salts and plant food. The names sound harmless, but drug officials say they have the same effects as marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and meth. They've caused sickness, seizures and in some cases even death.
Now, drug and legal experts are digging to get to the root of the problem.
“Try to shut these companies down; try to get them to quit sending via the Internet -- these substances into our state,” Napier said.
The lawsuit asks the company to stop selling synthetic drug ingredients to places in West Virginia.
“People that are dealing in this stuff can be arrested for the raw ingredients that they've got, even though it hasn't been through that final step and actually packaged at that point,” Assistant Attorney General Doug Davis said.
These drugs were banned in West Virginia last year. Since then people have been arrested, businesses have been busted and some even closed.
With the drugs no longer on store shelves, the focus now is preventing them from hitting the black market.
The lawsuit asks Nutragenomics to identify those who have purchased their products in West Virginia.
It also asks that the company be required to pay a $5,000 fine for each violation.
Attorney General Darrell McGraw claims that the company has misled people into believing its products are legal in West Virginia.
WSAZ.com could not reach Nutragenomics for comment.