More than seventy agents converged on two businesses and multiple homes in a bi-county raid Wednesday morning. They all belong to four men arrested in connection to selling the synthetic drug commonly known as bath salts.
A seven month investigation came to a peak when multiple agencies raided the Hot Stuff and Cool Things in Rosebud Plaza and its sister store, Hot Stuff, in downtown Buckhannon.
"The closing of this store in Rosebud Plaza means that a major source of supply, perhaps the major source of supply of bath salts in this area, has been shut down," says United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II.
The Harrison County Drugs and Violent Crimes Task Force has been looking into the businesses since September after residents called complaining about the sale of bath salts.
"There's a lot of concerned citizens out there that provided volumes of information all across the board," says Harrison County Sheriff Albert Marano.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Three Rivers Task Force, the IRS and the United States Attorney's Office all joined the investigation.
On Wednesday, the owner of the store, 48-year-old Clarksburg resident Jeffrey Paglia and three other men were taken into custody. Paglia and John Skruck, 56, of Clarksburg, Jeremia Phillips, 30, of Clarksburg and Derrick Calip, 40, of Clarksburg, all face charges of conspiracy to distribute Schedule I Controlled Substances and Schedule I Controlled Substance analogues, referred to as bath salts and the sale of these drugs on multiple days from September through January. They're also accused of maintaining the drugs at the Hot Stuff store in Rosebud and a storage building in Stonewood. Two corporations, Jemrose, Inc. and Pag-Corp. are also named in the federal indictment. It's believed that Paglia and Jemrose, Inc. illegally structured monetary transactions. They say Paglia made bank deposits totaling $747,430 over a six month period last year structured to evade federal reporting requirements.
While investigating and pressing charges, the US Attorney's Office included 11 pieces of real estate, eight bank accounts, three motor vehicles and heavy equipment in the indictment. They are also seeking judgment of $2.5 million.
During the searches, officers seized more than $450,000 from bank accounts and $250,000 cash from a safe. This was done by officers from both task forces, the DEA, the ATF, the US Marshals service, the IRS, State Police, the Harrison County Sheriff's Department and Clarksburg, Bridgeport and Anmoore police departments.
It's believed that these businesses brought in about $14,000 a day for some period of time. This is part of why they could be considered the major source of supply of bath salts to the area.
"It's taxing on the healthcare facilities. It's taxing on our law enforcement agencies. It's taxing on first responders. It's taxing on, probably more than anything, on the families of the people who are using these substances. It's also taxing on the businesses who operate or try to operate in Rosebud Plaza and nearby who have to deal with everything that goes along with the business like this," says Ihlenfeld.
They're concerned that a lot of people may be going through withdrawal. United Summit Center/United Hospital Center, 304-623-5661, and the Valley Health Care System, 304-366-7174, will offer assistance to anyone dealing with these symptoms regardless if they can afford to pay.
Searches were still going on throughout the day. Deliveries being made to the homes and businesses during these raids gave investigators a clue of where the bath salts are coming from.
The searches are also leading investigators to more people and more possible charges. They say they are aware of other operations and plan to prosecute them next.