Federal prosecutors in North Dakota have charged four men with conspiring to import and sell controlled substances used to make synthetic hallucinogenic drugs, including drugs made by a self-described "hobby chemist" from Grand Forks that killed two teens and led to several overdoses in the area.
In an indictment unsealed Wednesday, prosecutors describe Charles Carlton, a 28-year-old man from Katy, Texas, as the "leader, organizer, manager and supervisor" of a conspiracy to import controlled substances from Asia and Europe and resell them over the Internet to domestic buyers.
Prosecutors say Carlton imported hallucinogenic chemicals from China, the U.K., Austria, Poland, Greece, Spain, and Canada through a business he used, Motion Resources LLC, which were then distributed throughout the U.S. They say Carlton and the other defendants had the imports sent to various addresses throughout the country in an attempt to evade law enforcement.
Among those who bought chemicals from the company was Andrew Spofford, who was one of a dozen people from the Grand Forks area charged in the investigation into the June drug deaths of Christian Bjerk, 18, of Grand Forks, and Elijah Stai, 17, of Park Rapids, Minn.
Spofford, who described himself to police as a "hobby chemist," pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances resulting in serious bodily injury and death — a charge brought against all four of those named in the new indictment. Spofford also admitted to dealing cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy, and delivering a drug meant to counteract effects of the hallucinogens that did not have instructions for use.
Carlton and Byron Landry, 27, of Kiln, Miss., each face two conspiracy to distribute counts, and 25-year-old John Polinski, of Houston, and 27-year-old Ryan Lane, of East Grand Forks, Minn., face one count each. In addition, Carlton, Landry and Polinksi, are each charged with a count of conspiracy to introduce a misbranded drug into interstate commerce.
Authorities are also demanding that Carlton turn over $385,000 in alleged drug sale proceeds.
The four defendants have yet to appear in federal court in North Dakota.
Bjerk and Stai died within a week of each other in June after ingesting the hallucinogens. Stai is believed to have ingested powder that was mixed with melted chocolate, cooled and eaten like candy, police said.
Other people reportedly required medical treatment from the batch of synthetic drugs. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Myers said earlier that one juvenile who took the drugs was hospitalized in intensive care "for quite some time."
Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota, said he couldn't comment specifically on the indictment because it's an open case.