Big bath salt drug bust in Billyburg

Big bath salt drug bust in Billyburg
Photo by Aaron Short

These bath salts will clean out more than your pores.

Federal agents arrested nine alleged drug pushers — including one on Grand Street in Williamsburg and three others in Brooklyn — in the city’s first “bath salts” drug bust on Tuesday afternoon, seizing 40 kilograms of the designer narcotic worth $2 million.

US Attorney Preet Bharara announced that the nine smoke shop employees would be charged with distribution of controlled substances, delivery of misbranded drugs and conspiracy, and faced a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Drug Enforcement Administration officials launched their undercover investigation in February, targeting smoke shops and tattoo parlors in Brooklyn and Manhattan that sold pipes, bongs and other drug paraphernalia.

Their investigation led them to Grand Street’s Fugetaboutit, where a DEA agent purchased bath salts from store employee Yacob Biton, 34, who allgedly told an undercover agent that his drug, “White Lightning,” was the “best s—t” and provided “a better high than cocaine” that would increase sexual performance.

Biton also allgedly bragged that he had sold it to 50 satisfied customers, including several exotic dancers who worked at Manhattan nightclubs.

Two days later, Biton secured his 51st, allegedly selling 32.7 grams of methylone to the agent, assuring him that it was the “strongest bath salt on the market.”

And on March 28, Biton sold another 648.7 grams of a bath salt to the undercover agent, telling him that “no one else sold a higher quality blend of bath salts.”

Biton and other smoke shop workers sold these synthetic chemicals labeled as soothing bathing salts for as much as $40 to $100 a gram.

Packets of bath salts are branded with names such as “Russian River,” White Cloud,” “Goodfellas,” “Snow Blow,” and “Charley Sheene,” but usually carry the warning, “not for human consumption.”

But drug users ignore the warnings and snort the salts in powder form, swallow it in pill form or inject it intravenously to experience highs similar to ecstasy and stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamines.

“One of the charges involves that [the stores] put on packages, ‘not for human consumption’ — “but they’re telling undercover purchasers how to use the product,” said DEA spokesman Robert Michaelis.

Sometimes its side effects can be catastrophic.

Drug abuse of “bath salts” can lead to psychotic episodes, panic attacks and delusions and the drug has been linked to suicide, self-inflicted wounds and homicide in scores of cases throughout the country.

So far this year, the American Association of Poison Control has reported 1,782 calls regarding bath salts abuse and overdose, a 300 percent increase in calls from 2010.