Police: More ‘bath salts’ seized after record bust
By COLIN DEPPEN Era Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org | Posted: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 7:00 am
ST. MARYS — City of St. Marys Police say a 105 gram shipment of stimulant bath salts seized Monday was destined for a group of suspects now charged with possessing one kilogram of the dangerous designer drug in April, a record-setting haul worth up to $200,000.
In a press conference held Tuesday at the St. Marys Police Station on Erie Avenue, Elk County District Attorney Shawn T. McMahon said police on Monday stopped a 105 gram shipment of stimulant bath salts bound for an unidentified St. Marys home.
Officers reportedly learned of the incoming parcel after arresting William “Bill” Charles Dilley, 55, and his son Jacob Daniel Dilley, 21, both of 130 Poplar Road in St. Marys, on Monday, in connection with an April search of the residence that netted roughly one kilogram of the drug.
Officers intercepting the package Monday found it contained 105 grams of a crystalline substance believed to be stimulant bath salts.
Criminal charges have not been filed in connection with the latest shipment, but the April search and seizure that yielded 943 grams of the drug has resulted in felony charges, including drug possession, possession with intent to deliver and criminal conspiracy to deliver being pressed against Dilley, his sons Jacob Daniel Dilley, Jeremiah Adam “Satan” Dilley, 21, of 158 North Michael St., St. Marys, and Jeremiah’s girlfriend, Abby Marie O’Rourke, 30, of 331 First Ave. in Johnsonburg.
Monday’s seizure brings the total recovered through the months-long investigation into the foursome and bath salts trafficking in St. Marys to nearly 1,100 grams of the synthetic hallucinogenic stimulant. It is the largest such seizure of bath salts in St. Marys to date with a combined estimated street value of $220,000.
According to court records filed in the case, it cost O’Rourke and the Dilleys just $2,300 to purchase a kilogram of the illicit substance from an unidentified Chinese producer in March.
Police say the package was subsequently shipped to St. Marys where William Dilley and his sons conspired to distribute its contents at a sizable mark-up of up to $200 per gram.
“Bath salts is a way of making a living for some people and a very lucrative one sometimes,” McMahon said Tuesday in speaking to financial motivations driving a burgeoning local bath salts trade.
After seizing the kilogram in April, police delayed making arrests to allow for further investigation and development of additional suspects, namely O’Rourke and brothers Jeremiah and Jacob Dilley. Authorities say the three helped William Dilley to distribute the kilogram which, when found in his possession weighed 943 grams, or 57 grams shy of a full “kilo”.
The investigation involved St. Marys Police, members from the North Central Pennsylvania Municipal Drug Task Force as well as state agencies including the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.
In a release issued Tuesday, Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane, the state’s chief legal authority, credited investigators with the arrests and continued efforts to combat use of bath salts state-wide, calling it a “powerful and highly addictive synthetic drug.”
According to the release, charges against the four defendants are as follows: William Dilley is charged with felony counts of possession of bath salts, possession with intent to deliver bath salts and criminal conspiracy to deliver bath salts; Jacob Dilley is charged with four felony counts of criminal use of a communications facility and one felony count of criminal conspiracy to deliver bath salts; Jeremiah Dilley is charged with four felony counts of criminal use of a communications facility, one felony count of criminal conspiracy to deliver bath salts and one count of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities; O’Rourke is charged with one count of criminal conspiracy to deliver bath salts and one count of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities.
William Dilley and Jacob Dilley were arrested and charged Monday, the elder released on $25,000 unsecured bail. Jacob Dilley remains incarcerated on $50,000 cash bail.
O’Rourke and Jeremiah Dilley remain in custody at Elk County Prison on unrelated drug possession charges. The couple was still awaiting arraignment on the newest set of charges filed against them.
On Tuesday, McMahon declined to comment on potential sentences for the defendants, if convicted, instead focusing on a building of momentum in ongoing law enforcement initiatives to eradicate the drug locally. These include the July 17 seizure of roughly $60,000 in cash and designer drugs recovered in raids on homes in Ridgway and St. Marys.
“Through law enforcement efforts, additional bath salts have been taken off the streets in Elk County,” McMahon said.
“The drug is having devastating effects on Elk County and communities throughout the country . . . It is certainly a crisis situation.”
While refusing to divulge potential punishments in the case, McMahon did express frustration with state sentencing guidelines he says fail to “adequately address” offenses related to bath salts possession and distribution.
He added, “It doesn’t even address the quantities, you could have 1,000 grams of bath salts in your house and you’re treated as though you have one gram.”
In bringing the issue to the attention of the Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission, McMahon is also appealing to state and federal and state lawmakers for help cracking down on overseas exports of the drug into the U.S.
Nationally, new laws criminalizing the drug and dozens of derivatives intentionally designed to skirt previous legal bans and evolving drug laws are bolstering law enforcement efforts to combat the drug and prosecute dealers and users. But bans on the drug’s active ingredients in the U.S. and some in China — currently the largest foreign producer of bath salts consumed in America — have failed to stem the tide, instead driving the trade further underground.
“As we sit in this room right now there could be another package coming from China today and law enforcement has made it a priority to cut off the supply,” he added.
McMahon said those efforts have led to importers and exporters going to greater lengths to avoid detection.
Locally, McMahon said dealers of the drug are “getting sophisticated,” adding “if you’re living at an isolated location on a country road for example, it’s not beyond these individuals who are on bath salts to be using your mailbox during the day to have bath salts delivered (to you) and they’ve gone to steps to put under someone else’s name.”
McMahon said the packages are often picked up without the homeowner’s knowledge.
On the production end of things, manufacturers also continue to label shipments with innocuous identities like “jewelry cleaner” and “Plant Food” in an attempt to evade scrutiny.
The term “bath salts” is itself an intentional misnomer, used in reference to a growing family of synthetic cathinones, a naturally-occurring stimulant with a cocaine-like high.
Long marketed as legal and safe highs, synthetic drugs like bath salts are quickly developing an reputation as anything but.
“One-time use can alter your life forever,” said St. Marys Police Chief Todd Caltagarone at Tuesday’s press conference.
“You can find people who have used it one time and are now having recurring psychosis and hallucinations and delusions.”
Caltagarone added, “We don’t know where it’s going and it’s a rather difficult thing for everybody including the health care system to get their arms around.”
The drug, which can be smoked, inhaled or ingested, is increasingly linked to violent outbursts in users, hallucinations and psychotic breaks.
In St. Marys, the drug currently accounts for at least 90 percent of drug related arrests and activity currently, according to St. Marys Police Officer Gregg McManus who attributes the popularity to its availability, affordability and potency.
McManus has seen the drug’s side effects first hand. These include residents seeing and hearing things that are not there and in some cases lashing out with weapons or words. Many are in need of medical treatment, making emergency rooms the first stop for many users in police custody. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says the drug was responsible for 23,000 emergency room visits nationwide in 2011.
Once inside a health care facility, users experiencing symptoms ranging from mania, to racing heart rate and dehydration and are often given large doses of sedatives to counteract the stimulant’s effects. In some cases users are restrained to keep from harming themselves or others.
Caltagarone cautioned there is no antidote for stimulant bath salts, unlike overdoses on opiates including heroin which can be reversed with certain medications.
At Tuesday’s press conference, McMahon said bath salts have become a community problem that will require a community effort to solve it.
He is asking retailers to be mindful of customers purchasing pre-paid credit cards with large amounts of cash and credit unions to watch for customers transferring large amounts of cash to far-off places including Asia, a primary supplier of designer drugs to America.
Both pre-paid credit cards and wire transfers are methods common in online purchases of designer drugs, as both cut down on a paper trail of purchases and make “E-commerce” possible.
Police say a wire transfer of $2,300 was used by O’Rourke to purchase the kilogram from China in March. With the right community input, authorities hope to prevent the next major shipment from reaching the county and its residents.
“If individuals come off the street and request to wire between $3,000 and $5,000 to China, it certainly should be deemed suspicious,” McMahon said.
“The (employees) should contact their internal compliance department and law enforcement to report this suspicious activity. In order to address this issue law enforcement needs assistance from everyone.”