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KSDK - U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan had a different agenda when he called a news conference to announce the arrest of 28 people for manufacturing and selling synthetic drugs. He and others gathered at the federal court house in downtown St. Louis wanted to make sure moms and dads in the region not only knew these drugs were still being sold, but that they were being altered with toxic chemicals coming in from Asia in an attempt to avoid prosecution.

"The recent emergence of synthetic drugs as a player in the drug world is the result of a cat and mouse game being played by drug marketers trying to avoid drug trafficking laws. By chemically altering ingredients in controlled substances they attempt to stay one step ahead of the regulatory process that try to determine what qualifies as controlled substances," he said.

"It is a message to the fathers and mothers of our community and it is simply this: parents if you have your children suddenly displaying a new found interest in potpourri , incense or bath salts, check it out. Please do not be lulled into a false sense of security that these products are harmless because you can buy them at the gas station or convenience store. These products are terribly harmful and they can kill," he added.

According the authorities the 28 charged in Missouri, Illinois and two other states, sold more than $18 million of synthetic drugs.

Dr. Anthony Scalzo who is the director of toxicology at St. Louis University and Cardinal Glennon said, "I had a case where kids were being told by college students that the product was safe and natural. This young man tried smoking it and died."

Dr. Scalzo shared calls that came into the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) where patients were described as having a rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, anxiety and agitation.

"Some were hallucinating. We had a 14-year-old boy that was ready to jump off a 5th floor window. His friends brought him down. We've had deaths and I've been called by numerous medical examiners around the country," he said.

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"Parents should not be lulled into a false sense of confidence that these substances must be okay just because they were purchased down at the corner gas station or convenience store," U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said in a news release. "The bottom line is that these drugs are extremely dangerous, and the ingestion of these substances has led to serious medical consequences requiring hospitalization and even death and suicide."

Charged in the first indictment:

Anwer Rao, 35, O'Fallon, IL

Michael Lentsch, 34, O'Fallon, IL

Matthew Fiedler, 23, Belleville, IL

Larry Farmer, Jr., 40, Keyesport, IL

Charles Kinney, 55, O'Fallon, IL

Brandien Robinson, 28, O'Fallon, IL

Mansi Patel, 28, Phoenix, AZ

Charged in the second indictment:

Greg Sloan, 58, St. Charles, MO,

Doug Sloan, 53, Indianapolis, IN

Igor Holdaiy, 52, St. Louis, MO

Elizabeth Pogue, 41, Bridgeton, MO

Charles Wolfe, 53, St. Peters, MO

Brett Beeman, 42, O'Fallon, MO

Sherri Beeman, 37, O'Fallon, MO

Roger Galvin, 36, Charlack, MO

John Galvin, 52, St. Louis, MO

Robert Jaynes, Jr., 43, Indianapolis, IN

Kirk Parsons, 45, Indianapolis, IN

David Neal, 45, Carmel, IN

Marcia Gronek, 52, St. Peters, MO

Charged in the third indictment:

Mark Palmer, 44, Granite City, IL

Anthony Palmer, 25, Mt. Vernon, IL

Samuel Leinicke, 24, Arnold, MO

Charles Wolfe, 53, St. Peters, MO

Robert Wolfe, 52, Hazelwood, MO

Joseph Gabrick, 52, O'Fallon, MO

Charged in the fourth indictment, 4:14CR000187 JAR, are:

Pamela Tabatt, 56, St. Peters, MO

Richard Gross, 34, Winfield, MO

Paul Berra, Jr., 30, Warrenton, M

If convicted, the drug conspiracy charges and money laundering conspiracy charges carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison for each count and/or fines ranging from $500,000 to $1,000,000. In determining the actual sentences, a Judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges. Additionally the indictments seek forfeiture of assets and property totaling more than $12 million dollars.

This case was investigated by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, the Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Additional assistance was received from the St. Louis County Police Department, St. Charles County Sheriff's Department, MO Lake Area Narcotics Enforcement Group, Metropolitan Enforcement Group for Southern IL, Southern Illinois Drug Task Force, the Illinois Attorney General's Office as well as the prosecuting attorney offices in St. Louis County, MO, St. Charles County, MO, Madison County, IL and St. Clair County, MO. Assistant United States Attorneys James Delworth, Erin Granger, Jennifer Winfield and John Mantovani are handling the cases for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

There are two main types of synthetic drugs:

Cathinones: A "speed" type drug commonly marketed as bath salts. They are typically snorted and packaged in containers with names like Full Throttle, Fresh, Limited, Starry Nights, Twisted, Pump It and Blitz. Reported effects have included hypertension, paranoia, anxiety and even psychosis.

Cannabinoids: A compound that tries to mimic marijuana, but with more powerful effects including excessive heart rate, vomiting and seizures. They are packaged as: Mega Kush, Mad Hatter, Bayou Blaster, Avalon, Pirates Booty, Lights Out, Golden Leaf, DEEW, Cloud 9, Primo, Optima and Crazy Eyes.

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