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Facing a Money Laundering Investigation? Hire the Leading Houston White Collar Crimes Lawyer

Hire the Best Houston Money Laundering AttorneyThe Federal crime of Money Laundering is traditionally understood to be the practice of filtering “dirty” money, or ill-gotten gains, through a series of transactions until the funds are “clean,” or appear to be proceeds from legal activities.  The United States Criminal Code takes a broader stance towards money laundering, and criminalizes knowingly engaging in a broad array of financial transactions that involve money either derived from or meant to promote various illegal activities, or that involve certain elements of deception. While money laundering charges are often perceived as related with drug crimes, they are more frequently related with business-related crimes. For example, money laundering charges may be associated with illegal funds obtained through business fraud, mortgage fraud/real estate fraud schemes or other white collar crimes.

The Charles Johnson Law Firm represents individuals and institutions in matters such as:

  • Hiding money
  • Failing to file require cash transaction reports
  • Making multiple cash withdrawals or deposits slightly below the $10,000 reporting threshold
  • Evading taxes by underreporting income
  • Alleged Patriot Act violations
  • Illegal wire transfers
  • Financial transactions involving proceeds of unlawful activity
  • Other illegal transactions
  • Federal criminal appeals involving money laundering

Such activities are often viewed by federal prosecutors as indicators of money laundering. Houston Money Laundering Lawyer Charles Johnson will provide a vigorous defense of clients who have drawn scrutiny from the federal government for their financial transactions. If the government is able to make the case that your financial transactions were an effort to “launder” money received from criminal activities such as drug trafficking or weapons trafficking, you will face forfeiture of your assets. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson is available to speak with you directly about your case, anytime night or day, at (713) 222-7577 if you have been charged with or are being investigated for Money Laundering.

Overview of Money Laundering in Texas
Although money laundering can be a complex process, it usually involves three distinct steps that can occur simultaneously or sequentially. These steps are referred to as (1) Placement, (2) Layering, and (3) Integration.

  • Placement is the initial process of getting illegal funds into “the system,” or placing unlawful proceeds into legitimate financial institutions. A common technique used for placement is structuring, or “smurfing,” which involves dividing the funds into multiple deposits of cash that are below reporting thresholds and then depositing the funds at one or more institutions, using one or more individuals to make the deposits.  Placement may also be accomplished by purchasing money orders or travelers checks at one institution and depositing them into accounts at other institutions.
  • Layering is the process of converting funds after they have entered the legitimate system. This step involves a series of complex financial transactions that move the funds in order to distance them from their illegal source. For example, dirty money may be converted to clean money through the purchase and sale of stocks, bonds, art, or jewelry. It may also be wired as payment for non-existent goods, disbursement to a non-existent borrower, or simply a transfer to another account.
  • Integration is the process in which the illegal funds re-enter the legitimate economy and become virtually indistinguishable from legal funds. The newly cleaned funds, often commingled with legitimate funds, are then ready for use, be it in investing in real estate, purchasing luxury items, or financing business ventures.

Common elements that drive the efforts of money launderers throughout this three step process include “the need to conceal the origin and true ownership of the proceeds, the need to maintain control of the proceeds, and the need to change the form of the proceeds in order to shrink the huge volumes of cash generated by the initial criminal activity.” It is important, when reviewing literature on money laundering, to be aware that a conviction for the crime of money laundering may not necessarily reflect activity that would traditionally be understood to constitute money laundering.  For example, someone who buys legitimate goods online commits money laundering, under the federal statute, if the supplier is outside of the country and the supplies are intended to facilitate one of several crimes — even if the product is itself legal and is being used in a legal way.  (For example, purchasing napkins in such a way would be money laundering, if they were to be used by an illegal casino.)

Off-shore Accounts 

Identifying and verifying money laundering is a difficult task, partly because of the complexities of the multi-transactional process but also because of the legal, political, and economic barriers that interfere with and often completely prevent investigation or enforcement of U.S. law outside of U.S. borders. Some of these barriers are reduced through the use of “memoranda of understanding” (MOUs), or mutual agreements — between agencies or officials of different nations — to exchange information and cooperate in criminal investigations. However, not all nations enter into these or other cooperative agreements. Examples of these instances include Nauru, Myanmar, and Nigeria.

Costs and Statistics

There is no clear picture of the actual amount of money laundered globally. Estimates based on reported crimes will tend to underestimate the figure, and estimates based on the size of the underground economy will tend to overestimate the actual amount.  Synthesizing a variety of sources, the International Monetary Fund cites figure of between ¾ of a percent to 2 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, when using the reported crime method and 5 to 85 percent of a nation’s economy (depending on the nation) when using the underground economy method.  These two figures can be found in other sources, roughly combined to give a range of 2-5 percent of the world’s GDP.  In 1996, the 2-5 percent formula yielded between 590 billion and 1.5 trillion dollars.   This figure is relatively often quoted as being the range of the magnitude of the money laundering problem (sometimes “rounded up” to 600 billion)- such as by the FBI.  The U.S. Department of the Treasury has also been quoted as estimating that “$600 billion represents a conservative estimate of the amount of money laundered each year.”  Using 2005’s world GDP of 59.6 trillion, the 2-5% approach would give one a figure of between 1.2 and 3 trillion dollars.  Of course, the research that provided the main support for the 2-5% figure is itself a decade old, and money laundering has become an issue commanding much greater legislative, regulative, and law enforcement attention in the wake of September 11th. In fiscal year 2001, federal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. seized more than $300 million in criminal assets that were attributable to money laundering. In 2001, U.S. district courts completed 1,420 money laundering cases and convicted 1,243 individuals, or more than 87 percent of the defendants prosecuted. Some of these cases involved more than $100 million in laundered funds, and one-fifth of the cases involved more than $1 million. Of the Money Laundering Control Act charges made in 2001, 63 percent involved fraud, bank embezzlement, transporting stolen property, and counterfeiting, and 16 percent involved drug trafficking. Almost half (44 percent) of the money laundering cases referred to U.S. Attorneys in 2001 occurred in the six geographic areas designated by the U.S. Departments of Justice and the Treasury as areas of high risk for financial crimes and money laundering activity (High Intensity Financial Crime Areas or HIFCAs). These areas are (with the year designated a HIFCA)

  • New York and Northern New Jersey – (2000)
  • Los Angeles – (2000)
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico – (2000)
  • The southwest Texas and Arizona/Mexico border – (2000)
  • The northern district of Illinois (Chicago) – (2001)
  • The northern district of California (San Francisco) – (2001)
  • Southern Florida (Miami) – (2003)

High Profile Examples/Case Studies

In 2006, Charles E. Edwards was sentenced to 13 years in prison and was ordered to pay $320,397,837 in restitution following his September conviction on charges of wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  The evidence showed that from 1996 through September 2000, Edwards, the founder of ETS Payphones, Inc. (ETS), raised capital to grow his coin-operated payphone business by using a network of independent insurance agents to sell payphones to investors throughout the United States for $5,000 to $7,000 per phone.  Edwards convinced investors to buy payphones and lease them back to ETS for what Edwards claimed would be a guaranteed profit of approximately 14 percent per year.  The scheme defrauded approximately 12,000 nationwide investors out of more than $400 million.  Edwards siphoned off approximately $21 million of the fraud proceeds for himself and his wife.  In addition, the evidence showed that Edwards engaged in a series of unusual and convoluted financial transactions, which served no legitimate business purpose and were intended solely to conceal and disguise the source, location, ownership, nature, and control of the proceeds involved in those transactions.In 2006, Edmundo P. Rubi was sentenced to 70 months in prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering.  Rubi previously pled guilty to the charge that he conspired to conduct a scheme to defraud investors out of more than $12 million using his companies, Knights Express, Ltd. and Djmler Enterprises, Inc.  Rubi was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $12,483,000.  According to the plea agreement, beginning in 1999 and continuing up to October 31, 2001, Rubi formed and operated Knights Express Ltd. and Djmler Enterprises, Inc. for the purpose of soliciting investments from members of the public.  In connection with his guilty plea, Rubi admitted that he made fraudulent representations that investor funds would be used to purchase and resell Federal Reserve notes in an international trading program.  In actuality, no such international trading program existed.  Millions of dollars of investor funds were used instead to pay the periodic returns that investors received and to make unsecured investments.  Rubi also intentionally concealed from investors the fact that millions of dollars of investor funds were converted for his own personal use and benefit.The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York completed in 2002 a “long-term investigation targeting the money laundering and narcotics activities of the Khalil Kharfan Organization operating in Colombia, Puerto Rico, Florida, and the New York Tri-State area.” Initial statements by the agencies indicated that more than $100 million in narcotics proceeds were laundered in the scheme. The organization used members to open fictitious businesses, which they used for the deposit and transfer of money between countries.  Approximately $1 million has been recovered.In 2002, a California jury convicted two principals in a Costa Rican tax evasion-money laundering ring. Wayne Anderson, 62, and Richard Marks, 58, were arrested in one of the largest undercover stings in IRS history. The two men were charged with conspiracy to launder $470,000, mostly through offshore trusts that concealed millions of dollars for U.S. taxpayers who wanted to evade U.S. taxes. The case resulted in seven federal convictions. “A Nashville, Tennessee man was sentenced to 20 years in jail for his three-year role in a large-scale cocaine distribution and money laundering organization in the Nashville area. The individual pled guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to distribute cocaine. The defendant used several vehicles with sophisticated hidden compartments to transport the cocaine and the proceeds to pay for it back and forth between Chicago and Nashville.” “On June 21, 2002 a federal jury in North Carolina convicted Mohamad Hammoud and his brother Chawki, Lebanese immigrants, for providing material support to the terrorist group Hezbollah through racketeering, conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit money laundering by funneling profits from a cigarette smuggling operation. In March 2002, several of the Hammoud’s co-defendants pled guilty in North Carolina federal court to racketeering, conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit money laundering for funneling profits from their cigarette smuggling operation to purchase military equipment for the Hezbollah terrorists. The case began when the West Virginia State Police seized a significant quantity of contraband cigarettes. The Federal indictment alleged that millions of dollars worth of cigarettes were smuggled out of North Carolina to resell in States, including Michigan, where higher State taxes greatly increase the sales price.”

The Response/Current Efforts

Legislation and Regulation  The U. S. has imposed a number of legislative and regulatory standards to deter money laundering. The most significant of these are the following:

  • The Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), signed into law in October 1970, implemented a reporting system for large financial transactions (over $10,000) to monitor and deter the flow of criminally obtained proceeds. (Codified 31 U.S.C. §§ 5311-5330)
  • The Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 amended the BSA and specifically made money laundering – spending, saving, transporting, or transmitting proceeds of criminal activity – a federal felony. (Codified 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956 and 1957)
  • The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 increased the penalties and sanctions for money laundering crimes and amended the money laundering provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 1956 to include financial transactions with the intent to violate § 7201 (attempted tax evasion) or § 7206 (false tax return) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (26 U.S.C.). (Pub. L. 100-690)
  • The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act identified violations of money laundering statues as “predicate offenses” that constitute racketeering activity and provided for both civil and criminal actions against violators. (Codified 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968)
  • The Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Strategy Act of 1998 required that the Secretary of the Treasury coordinate and implement a national strategy to address money laundering. (Pub. L. 105-310)
  • The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 established new rules and responsibilities affecting financial institutions and commercial businesses to prevent, detect, and prosecute terrorism and international money laundering. For example, the Act required banks to actively monitor customer transactions, expanded the ability of public and private institutions to share information, and increased civil and criminal penalties for money laundering. (Pub. L. 107-56)

Current Efforts To Reduce Money Laundering  In 2005, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) completed Operation Mallorca, an investigation into the use of the Columbian Black Market Peso Exchange to launder drug money.  Operation Mallorca resulted in the arrest of 36 individuals and the seizure of 7.2 million dollars, 947 kilograms of cocaine, 7 kilograms of heroin, and 21,650 pounds of marijuana. In 2005, the multinational Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force completed Operation Cyber Chase, an investigation that targeted illegal Internet pharmacies.  These pharmacies used more than 200 websites to sell controlled substances internationally and to launder the proceeds.  Just one of the organizations involved used this system of web-based distribution to move approximately 2.5 million dosage units of Schedule II-V pharmaceuticals (including Vicodin, amphetamines, and anabolic steroids) permonth. “Operation Wire Cutter,” a two and a half year joint effort of U.S. and Colombian law enforcement, uncovered a massive money laundering operation for several Colombian narcotics cartels that channeled money through New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Juan, and Puerto Rico using the Black Market Peso Exchange. The efforts resulted in 37 arrests – 29 in the U.S. and eight in Colombia – as well as the seizure of more than $8 million, 400 kilos of cocaine, 100 kilos of marijuana, 6.5 kilos of heroin, nine firearms, and six vehicles. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, efforts to reduce money laundering – throughout the world – have increased significantly, with particular attention paid to associations with terrorist activities. Effective September 24, 2001, for example, President Bush issued Executive Order 13224, “blocking property and prohibiting transactions with persons who commit, threaten to commit, or support terrorism.” Initially, 27 individuals and organizations were identified as Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entities under Executive Order 13224. By June 6, 2003, 282 individuals and organizations had been identified as SDGTs, and over $137 million in associated assets had been frozen worldwide. In July 2002, the second National Money Laundering Strategy issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury pointedly addressed the issue of money laundering as “integral to the war on terrorism.” Specifically, the strategy (1) presented “government’s first plan to attack financing networks of terrorist entities” and (2) focused on “the use of charities and other non-governmental organizations to raise, collect, and distribute funds to terrorist groups.”

Penalties for Money Laundering Charges in Texas

Money laundering refers to the process of concealing financial transactions. Various laundering techniques can be employed by individuals, groups, officials and corporations. The goal of a money laundering operation is usually to hide either the source or the destination of money in connection with a criminal act.

Money laundering is a white collar crime that will be investigated by many different sources including: local, state and federal investigators that may also include the Department of Justice, the State Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). A person can be charged with money laundering if suspected of receiving, concealing, possessing, transferring, transporting or having any interest in the proceeds of criminal activity. In fact a money laundering charge can be filed against a person that has almost anything at all to do with the proceeds of a criminal act. In Texas, money laundering charges have varied penalties depending on the amounts involved:

  1. Value from $3000 to $19,999 = third degree felony (2-10 years in prison plus a hefty fine if convicted)
  2. Value from $20,000 to $99,999 = second degree felony (2-20 years in prison plus a hefty fine if convicted)
  3. Value from $100,000 and up = first degree felony (5 to life years in prison plus a hefty fine if convicted)

There are several different types of money laundering charges you can face. Some are more serious than others and could result in severe punishments and steep fines. In fact, if you are convicted of money laundering, you could be forced to pay a fine up to twice the amount of the total dollar amount of funds involved in the illegal activity.

It is important that you contact Houston White Collar Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson as soon as you are aware of charges against you or a loved one. If you are confronted with federal charges, you will want an experienced attorney who is familiar with federal court procedure as it is quite different from the state court process. Attorney Charles Johnson is well-versed in both federal and state law and court procedure. No matter what your money laundering charges or other white collar crime charges entail, you can trust that he will prepare a solid defense on your behalf.

Defenses for Money Laundering Charges in Texas

  • Absence of intent to commit a crime — Most crimes require intent to commit the crime.  In terms of money laundering, people who are accountants, bankers, or others who deal with large amounts of money are often charged with money laundering without even knowing they committed a crime.  If you can prove you were unaware the money obtained was illegal, then there is no way you can have intent to commit money laundering.
  • Duress — Duress occurs when a person truly believes there will be some danger or harm if they do not participate in the crime.  In money laundering, criminals often force accountants or bankers to launder illegally obtained money or else be subjected to harm.  If this is the case, you will have a good duress defense (as the banker or accountant).
  • Insufficient evidence — A criminal charge can be dismissed if there is insufficient evidence to prosecute.  In money laundering, an intention to prevent illegally obtained funds from being traced to its origin is required for a conviction. A conviction also requires proving the money laundered came from a specific illegal activity.  If one of these two things is missing, then there is a possibility this defense will work.

The main defense to Money Laundering is the defendant’s lack of knowledge that the funds were from an unlawful activity. Attorney Charles Johnson may be able to establish that you did not intend to promote unlawful activity or that the transaction was not designed to conceal the unlawful activity. This is usually a valid defense when a person is merely an employee of a business, or a non-involved partner who is basically “duped” into managing a business whose proceeds are the result of an illegal activity. This defense can be supported with evidence from the company’s financial statements or accounting records showing material misrepresentation or omissions, committed by someone else other than the defendant. Many times one devious business partner will ask another partner to “sign off” on certain loan documents or tax returns without telling the defendant that the information contained therein is false misleading. Just because a defendant has signed off on paperwork that might be designed to cover up the source of money or funds does not mean the defendant actually knew about the source of the funds. It is important to interview all of the parties involved to ascertain the defendant’s good character and honesty and lack of control over this area of the company’s finances, and to emphasize the partner’s bad character. Another defense is tracing the funds involved in the transactions and proving that these specific funds did not fund, nor were the proceeds of, any unlawful activity. The defenses for Money Laundering are quite complex (as are all white collar cases) and involve many hours of records research by attorneys and expert witnesses. It is often beneficial to utilize a “forensic accountant” to also go through the documents in order to defend against the Government’s allegations.

Hire the Best Houston White Collar Crimes Attorney Additionally, because the Charles Johnson Law Firm fights conviction from all angles, they will assert a wide range of defenses and challenges to constitutional violations that apply in all criminal cases. The possibilities are numerous and diverse. One of those is the “denial of right to Counsel”. This occurs when a suspect is in custody and requests to speak to their attorney, but is denied and questioning continues. Other defenses may include challenging the validity of any search warrant, or whether there were any “forensic flaws” during the investigation of your case. Depending on what else you have been charged with, this could include exposing flawed procedures regarding fingerprints analysis; computer analysis/cloning hard drive procedures; GPS tracking monitors; forensic financial accounting reviews; etc.. Lastly, one of the most common defense tactics is exposing sloppy or misleading police reports which include everything from misstatements, false statements, flawed photo line-ups and inaccurate crime scene reconstruction. It is important to hire a skilled Money Laundering lawyer to defend you who has knowledge of all the possible defenses to assert in your case. While related charges can further complicate a money laundering defense or other type of case, it is important to remember that just because you have been accused, doesn’t mean you are guilty. Contact Houston White Collar Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson immediately for your free phone consultation. Attorney Johnson will take your call 24/7 365 days/year at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case. Put his knowledge to work for you.

Hire the Best Houston Money Laundering Lawyer: Houston White Collar Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson

At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, our attorneys possess the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully defend individuals facing federal money laundering charges. Unless you retain counsel who will aggressively investigate the matter on your behalf, you may have a poor chance of avoiding a lengthy prison term among other severe consequences. Money laundering is a serious offense with potential long-term consequences including jail time.When your future is at stake, contact the Leading Houston Criminal Lawyer at the Charles Johnson Law Firm.  You can reach Attorney Johnson directly anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577.

 

Facing a Money Laundering Investigation? Hire the Leading Houston White Collar Crimes Lawyer

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Charged with Possession of Illegal Bath Salts? Protect Your Freedom by Hiring Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson

Top Houston Bath Salts LawyersAnyone can find themselves facing a drug charge. It all depends on what the government decides to make illegal. In 2011 the Texas legislature placed a ban on the chemicals found in bath salts, effectively outlawing bath salts for recreational drug use. Last month the DEA outlawed the drug from being sold. Prior to the ban, certain types of these bath salts were available to buy in stores. Many of the chemicals found in bath salts are now Schedule I controlled substances, based on recently enacted Texas law. Schedule I controlled substances come with a real possibility of jail time and are generally charged as a felony – just for first offense possession.

As with any change in the law, law enforcement authorities can overstep their bounds when it comes to those who are accused of drug possession. People still aren’t sure what to do with bath salts. Unlike marijuana possession, bath salts possession is a new concept in criminal law. If you’ve been arrested for possession of bath salts in Houston or anywhere else in Texas, call Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577 or contact us online to discuss your case. Attorney Johnson will do everything in his power to defend you and your rights if you’ve been accused of Bath Salt possession. Your consultation is free and absolutely confidential.

What are “Bath Salts” (aka synthetic cathinones)

“Bath salts” are not for use in the bath, nor do they contain salt. While the formula of this drug changes regularly, most of the now illegal bath salts refer to commercially available products that have as part of their composition a legal stimulant called 3, 4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV (sometimes another synthetic stimulant called Mephedrone and less commonly a synthetic stimulant called Methylone). These synthetic stimulants are in a class of drug known as synthetic cathinones.

Synthetic cathinones are related to the parent compound cathinone (found naturally in the plant Khat, which has cathinone producing a mild stimlative effect). Since the mid-2000s, unregulated ring-substituted cathinone derivatives have appeared in the European and American recreational drugs market. The most commonly available synthetic cathinones sold on the recreational market in the period up to 2011 appear to be 3, 4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), mephedrone, and methylone. These products are usually encountered as highly pure white or brown powders. Cathinone derivatives are claimed to have effects similar to those of cocaine, amphetamine or MDMA (ecstasy), but little is known of their detailed pharmacology.

Currently illegal in Texas, they are sold mostly on the internet but can also be found in select shops locally. They’re known by a variety of names, including “Red Dove,” “Blue Silk,” “Zoom,” “Bloom,” “Cloud Nine,” “Ocean Snow,” “Lunar Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” “Ivory Wave,” “White Lightning,” “Scarface” “Purple Wave,” “Blizzard,” “Star Dust,” “Lovey, Dovey,” “Snow Leopard,” “Aura,” and “Hurricane Charlie.” While they have become popular under the guise of selling as “bath salts”, they are sometimes sold as other products such as insect repellant, or the latest iteration of products called jewelry cleaner or IPOD screen cleaners, pump-it-up powder, IPOD cleaner, etc.

Much like the marketing of Synthetic Cannabinoids (Spice/K2) as incense, MDPV has been market as “bath salts” and just like Spice/K2 MDPV is specifically labeled “not for human consumption.”
Top Houston Criminal Lawyers

What are MDPV and Mephedrone?

As stated before, MDPV is a legal stimulant who’s chemical name is 3, 4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, and is the active ingredient in “Bath Salts”. A DEA report from December 2010 states that “preliminary testing indicates that the active ingredients in many brands [of bath salts] contain MDPV (3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone) and/or mephedrone.” Mephedrone, also known as 4-methylmethcathinone (4-MMC), or 4-methylephedrone, is a synthetic stimulant drug of the amphetamine and cathinone classes. Slang names include “meph,” “drone,” “MCAT,” and “meow, meow.”

Mephedrone is reportedly manufactured in China and is chemically similar to the cathinone compounds found in the khat plant of eastern Africa. It comes in the form of tablets or a powder, which users can swallow, snort or inject, producing similar effects to MDMA, amphetamines and cocaine. Because of the emergent nature of this class of substances, there has been some questioning as to what is in the composition of ‘bath salts’, though most evidence is leaning towards MDPV as being the compound of choice currently in ‘bath salts’.

In the United States, MDPV was packaged as “bath salts” but easy research from the internet showed that “bath salts” such as ‘Ivory Wave’ were being packaged as legal alternative stimulant drugs, and avoid prosecution by putting “Not For Human Consumption” on the packaging. However, some of these can barely contain themselves for what they really are, with one brand having a picture of Al Pacino’s ‘Scarface’ on its packaging.

They are sold over the internet, and on the street, in convenience stores, discount tobacco outlets, gas stations, pawnshops, tattoo parlors, and truck stops, among other locations. The various brands are sold in 50-milligram to 500-milligram packets. Prices range from $25 to $50 per 50-milligram packet.

What are will be in Generation 2 and 3 of Bath Salts?

Generation 2 of Bath Salts have been hitting the internet market already, with the DEA’s temporary ban of MDPV, Mephedrone and Methylone. Naphyrone has been found in samples of what is being labeled online as “Cosmic Blast” a “jewelry cleaner”. There are products (of substances unknown) that are on the internet labeled as “IPOD/Phone Screen Cleaner” and other various covers, as it appears that “bath salts” became too viral of a product name and drug dealers have now moved on to other, more obscure product naming schemes.

Cosmic Blast, marketed as a jewelry cleaner, is a stimulant/hallucinogen that is being marketed in the same way bath salts were. Drug sellers don’t seem to care about US drug law in that samples of Cosmic Blast that have been tested in toxicology laboratories which came up positive for not only Naphyrone, but also MDPV. Naphyrone (which became popular in the UK after their ban of Mephedrone in 2010), is also known as O-2482 and naphthylpyrovalerone, is a drug derived from pyrovalerone that acts as a triple reuptake inhibitor, producing stimulant effects and has been reported as a novel designer drug. No safety or toxicity data is available on the drug). Anecdotal reports of Naphyrone are it can stay in your body for long periods and since it is a reuptake inhibitor of Serotonin, which is implicated in body heat regulation, body temperatures can soar upwards of 107-108 degrees.

Bruce Talbot, a former police officer and expert on emergent drug trends expressed the following concerns regarding MDPV and what could likely happen now that MDPV, Mephedrone and Methylone have become illegal. He suspects that now that MDPV, Mephedrone and Methylone have finally been added to an emergency ban, they will likely “be replaced by 4′-methyl-a-pyrrolidinopropiophenone (MPPP) and 3′,4′-methylenedioxy-a-pyrrolidinopropiophenone (MDPPP).”

What has been seen with K2/Spice is the U.S. government pushing to ban certain of the synthetic cannabinoids (JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP 49,479 and CP 49,479 C8, though they are trying a global sweep of this class by banning anything that binds to the CB1 receptors), but the companies making K2/Spice came out with the same product sprayed with chemicals not covered by state or national bans.

The same pattern is possible with the chemicals in “bath salts” (despite the drug using community moving on from the term “bath salts” it has become the name of recognition for this class of syntethic drugs). The following drugs would likely replace MDPV, Mephedrone and Methylone now that these three are banned nationally. These “chemical cousins include: a-pyrrolidinopropiophenone (a-PPP) little is known about this compound, but it has been detected by laboratories in Germany as an ingredient in “ecstasy” tablets seized by law enforcement authorities; 4′-methyl-a-pyrrolidinopropiophenone (MPPP) is a stimulant drug. It is very structurally similar to a-PPP. MPPP was sold in Germany as a designer drug in the late 1990s and early 2000s, although it has never achieved the same international popularity as its better-known relations a-PPP and MDPV; and 3′,4′-methylenedioxy-a-pyrrolidinopropiophenone (MDPPP) which is a stimulant designer drug. It was sold in Germany in the late 1990s and early 2000s as an ingredient in imitation ecstasy (MDMA) pills. It shares a similar chemical structure with a-PPP and MDPV.

MDPV Timeline

MDPV was developed in the 1960s, and has been used for the treatment of chronic fatigue, but caused problems of abuse and dependence.
1969: Boehringer Ingelheim files a patent application for MDPV.
2005: MDPV appears as a recreational drug; first mention on Drugs-Forum.
2007: First seizure of MDPV as a recreational drug, by customs officials in the German state of Saxony. The drug had been shipped from China.
2008: First seizure of MDPV in the United States.
2009: MDPV made illegal in Denmark.
2010: MDPV made a controlled drug in the UK, Sweden, Germany, Australia and Finland. First reports of the widespread retail marketing of ‘bath salts’ containing MDPV in the US. The US considers both Mephedrone (July, 2010) and MDPV (December, 2010) “a drug and chemical of concern”.
2011: MDPV sale and possession are banned in the US states of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington State (as of November 3, 2011), West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming, with legislation being introduced in many other states. The DEA moved to temporarily ban MDPV, Mephedrone and Methylone on October 21, 2011. This ban will last 12 months with the possibility of an additional 6 month extension while the DEA deatermines whether these 3 synthetic stimulants should be permanently classified as scheduled substances.
2012: Permanent US ban is imminent on few, select chemicals. In 2012 the Congress passed the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act – Synthetic Drugs, which will list MDPV and Mephedrone, but not Methylone.

The Effects of MDPV/Mephedrone (“Bath Salts”)

“Bath salts” are taken in many forms. Users may snort, shoot, eat or drink them. MDPV is a powerful stimulant that functions as a dopamine-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI). It has stimulatory effects on the central nervous system and cardiovascular system. Physical symptoms include: rapid heartbeat, increase in blood pressure, vasoconstriction, sweating. Mental symptoms include: euphoria, increases in alertness & awareness, increased wakefulness and arousal, anxiety, agitation, perception of a diminished requirement for food and sleep, and intense desire to re-dose. MDPV reportedly has four times the potency of Ritalin and Concerta. MDPV is sometimes labeled online as legal cocaine or legal amphetamines.

The effects have a duration of roughly 3 to 4 hours, with after effects such as tachycardia, hypertension, and mild stimulation lasting from 6 to 8 hours. High doses have been observed to cause intense, prolonged panic attacks in stimulant-intolerant users, and there are anecdotal reports of psychosis from sleep withdrawal and addiction at higher doses or more frequent dosing intervals. It’s addiction potential is not fully known at this time. However, one of the effects of MDPV is an intense desire to redose and there have been online reports from both professionals and users that MDPV is “strongly addicting”.

New research by scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicates that the active compounds in “bath salts” (mephedrone and methylone) bind to monoamine transporters on the surface of some neurons. This in turn leads to an increase in the brain chemical serotonin, and to a lesser extent, dopamine, suggesting a mechanism that could underlie the addictive potential of these compounds.

Are There Any Dangers Involved in Using “Bath Salts” (MDPV, Mephedrone)

Yes. Until a drug is tested, it cannot be considered safe. MDPV and its ‘chemical cousins’ have not been tested by the FDA and thus little is known as to the harm potential. Some anecdotal stories involving ‘bath salt’ usage and their potential for harm come in news stories from across the nation, local emergency room reports and data collected from the American Association of Poison Control Center.

In 2010 there were 303 calls about MDPV (bath salt) products according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS).

As of April 30, 2012 poison centers reported 1007 calls for all of 2012 (6,138 calls in 2011). This shows the trend of how popular this class of drug has become, but it also shows that since the national ban, decreased usage, in the form of poison control center calls, is evident (1,007 calls in the first 4 months of 2012 and 2,027 calls in the same time period of 2011).

Since the National ban MDPV, Mephedrone and Methylone on October 21, 2011, November 2011 saw 231 calls reported, December 2011 – 222 calls, January 2012 – 222 calls, February 2012 – 230 calls, March 2012 – 264 calls, and April 2012 saw 285 calls. This is clear evidence that the national and state bans are having an impact on the use of, and medical necessity reasons to contact emergency rooms, for the chemicals that comprise “bath salts”.

The effects of synthetic cathinones can be wide ranging and in many instances dangerous. Here is a listing of the effects:

  • Aggression
  • Agitation
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Bruxism (grinding teeth)
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme anxiety sometimes progressing to violent behavior
  • Fits and delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Headache
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Increased alertness/awareness
  • Increased body temperature, chills, sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Kidney pain
  • Lack of appetite
  • Liver failure
  • Loss of bowel control
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle tenseness
  • Vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels)
  • Nausea, stomach cramps, and digestive problems
  • Nosebleeds
  • Psychotic delusions
  • Pupil dilation
  • Renal failure
  • Rhabdomyolysis (release of muscle fiber contents [myoglobin] that could lead to kidney problems)
  • Severe paranoia
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)
  • Tinnitus

How Legal/Illegal is MDPV, Mephedrone and Methylone (“Bath Salts”) Nationally?

On October 21, 2011 the DEA finalized a move to enact a temporary emergency control (ban) of three synthetic stimulants. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is using its emergency scheduling authority to temporarily control three synthetic stimulants (Mephedrone, 3,4 methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and Methylone). Except as authorized by law, this action will make possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the U.S. for at least one year while the DEA and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) further study whether these chemicals should be permanently controlled. This emergency action was necessary to prevent an imminent threat to the public safety.

On March 1st, the DEA announced the ban of 5 synthetic cannabinoids (JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP 47,497 and CP 47,497 C8), however, before the ban was in place, generation 2 of synthetic cannabinoids were already being sold in convenience stores with the makers touting none of the banned substances being in their product.

In Pennsylvania (on June 23, 2011), SB 1006 was passed by the House, Senate and approved by the Governor. This bill SB 1006 bans 6 synthetic stimulants including MDPV and Mephedrone (this PA bill bans the same 6 synthetic stimulants that NJ banned on April, 28, 2011). This bill is also proposing to ban sativa and 8 synthetic cannabinoids and their analogues.

An amendment added to the PA SB 1006 also includes language barring all chemicals that are similar to the substances that are currently found in bath salts, synthetic cannabinoids and 2C (hallucinogens such as 2C-E, 2C-I, 2C-P, 2C-H and their analogues, congeners, homologues, isomers, salts and salts of analogues, congeners, homologues and isomers), and prohibits those chemical compounds from being used to create the same effect as the current bath salts, sytnthetic cannabinoids and 2C chemical structures. This addition to the law will make Pennsylvania’s the strongest such law in the nation.

As historical perspective, these drugs got on the US Government radar in December, 2010, when the DEA published a report listing MDPV as a drug of concern. On February 1, 2011 Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy, released the following statement following recent reports indicating the emergent threat of these synthetic stimulants, stating that he was “deeply concerned,” and that “public health officials are working on this emerging issue.” These drugs have been around long before then, and very few of them are being banned 2 years after this first statement by the US Government.

When a federal ban is finally enacted on a drug, it does not mean local authorities will take action on this drug. States still need to enact legislation to ban the substances in order for state (then local) authorities to take action. Federal bans will go after larger distributors, but it will be locally determined as to whether users and smaller, local distributors (such as non-chain convenience stores and gas stations) will be sought after without a state ban.

The Facts: MDPV, Mephedrone, and other synthetic cathinones can cause serious psychiatric symptoms in people who have never exhibited such symptoms prior to usage. This can happen for some, while others will never experience these symptoms under the influence of these chemicals. However, the prevalence of people having abreactions is evident in Poison Control Center data, and in these types of anecdotal stories linked above. For those who have pre-existing psychiatric problems, ingesting these substances can further fracture and intensify these pre-existing psychiatric symptoms, which can be expressed in violent ways by some. There is no evidence of continued “zombiefication” of bath salt users after the drugs have left their system. Thus any zombie like tendencies (i.e., aggression leading to the severe mutilation of oneself or others) that could possibly exist, would only do so while under the influence, and wouldn’t persist after the effects of the drug have left a person’s system. Sorry, no Hollywood zombie apocalypse is evident with “bath salts” ingestion, only tragic consequences.

The Conclusion: “Bath Salts” are man made derivatives (i.e., synthetics) of naturally occurring stimulants, created and popularized by “armchair chemists” driven by profit potential and whose business acumen is much more developed than their chemistry abilities. The people ingesting these substances are what are known as in the gaming community as “beta testers” of products which cause such volatile reactions in some, that this “beta stress test” is obviously failing with oft-times gruesome, tragic (yet sadly “popular” and “trending”) results. But this unfortunately will not stop many from continuing down this path of using these potentially dangerous, untested, unregulated (in terms of the actual making of the drugs), synthetic drugs. Thus while the popularization, and light-heartedness of the “zombie apocalypse” is shedding a new light on the potential dangers of these class of drugs, it is quite possible that message gets lost due to the glib way it is being presented in the (social) media.

If I have been accused of selling or buying “bath salts” in Texas is there anything I can do?

First of all, you will want to immediately seek the legal advice of an experienced criminal law attorney. Only an attorney who works to keep up on current drug laws and trends can help you after an arrest. Do not let recent changes in the law make you vulnerable to being arrested for bath salts possession, use or distribution. Being arrested for any charge involving bath salts will change the course of your life immediately. Depending on the actual charge you may face misdemeanor or felony drug charges, you will face heavy fines, possible probation, house arrest and a possible jail sentence.

It is not advisable to confront these charges by yourself. Please do not hesitate to contact a Houston Bath Salts Defense Attorney to discuss your rights and how to protect them. For experience you can trust, contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm today at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case. With his many years experience handling drug crimes in Texas he will thoroughly protect your rights, your freedom as well as your reputation.

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