The Drug Enforcement Administration made more than 90 arrests around the country Wednesday, including four in El Paso, and seized synthetic drugs and so-called bath salts, which officials said are aimed at teenagers.
The seizures were a part of Operation Log Jam, which focused on illegal substances that are disguised as fertilizer, potpourri and incense, DEA officials said Thursday.
DEA Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit said the El Paso Field Office was responsible for collaborating with law enforcement in El Paso, Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Roswell and Alamogordo.
In El Paso, DEA agents seized more than 6,800 packages of synthetic drugs, also known as Spice, and 31 containers of bath salts.
In New Mexico, more than 56,000 packages of Spice and 9,000 containers of bath salts were confiscated.
Officials also seized about 50 pounds of raw chemicals, 150 pounds of unpackaged Spice, 150 of untreated plant material used to make Spice, $360,000 in cash and bank accounts, 13 guns and six vehicles.
The local field office made 14 arrests and executed 49 search warrants on Wednesday.
Of those search warrants, 13 were in El Paso and led to four arrests, including two at The Green Effect on the 6500 block of Montana. Arabit said these drugs are usually sold at smoke shops, gas stations and some tattoo shops.
The identities of those arrested were not released, but officials said they are facing charges of possessing a controlled substance.José Barron, 37, is still wanted by DEA agents in connection with the raids. Anyone with information on Barron is asked to call 832-6000 or text a tipline using Tip411 at 847-411 using keyword "DEA."
"The immediate removal of these drugs from stores make our community safer by denying users and abusers," Arabit said in front of several pounds of confiscated material during a news conference. "We want the public to see what they look like so they can be aware and protect their children from these drugs."
Arabit said a recent survey conducted by the Monitoring the Future website, which is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, found the second most-popular drug, behind marijuana, among children from eighth grade to 12th grade is Spice. The survey was done in confidence, the website said.
"We do anticipate more arrests as chemicals are tested," Arabit said.
Sheriff's Office Commander of Special Operations Frank Ortez said some of these drugs are being packaged to appeal to children.
"This is packaged just like candy," Ortez said while holding up a colorful red package. "It is a calculated attack by basement chemists that are putting profit over the safety of our youth."
of the items had names such as Gremlin', Tiki Tiki and Schroomies. Several packages were called Scooby Snax Potpourri, and had a picture of the cartoon character Scooby Doo. "It looks like a package of Pop Rocks (candy)," Ortez said. "We have people peddling this out to our youth as a legitimate product."
Ortez said that Spice has an effect similar to marijuana's and that bath salts are used to simulate cocaine. But some shop owners sell the synthetic drugs by claiming they are legal, he said.
A DEA news release said that most of the drugs are not specifically prohibited in the Controlled Substance Act, but that the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 allows the drugs to be treated as illegal if chemical tests proves it is similar to banned controlled substances.
By Aaron Bracamontes / El Paso Times
Posted: 07/27/2012 12:00:00 AM MDT
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