The owner of a local chain of head shops was back in federal court Wednesday to plead guilty to charges relating to the sale of bath salts in several Tebbs stores. Owner John Tebbetts’ arrest was part of a much larger crackdown on synthetic drugs this summer. Our Candace Hopkins has more on the guilty plea and the ongoing battle to curb bath salt use.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- "This case is primarily about holding John Tebbetts accountable for his criminal conduct, but it also serves as a vivid illustration of the serious national problem that exists right here in the communities of Central New York," said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Grant Jaquith.
It was this past July when law enforcement agencies fanned out across Central New York, raiding head shops suspected of selling bath salts. Ten Tebbs locations were among those targeted. Thousands of grams of bath salts and other synthetic drugs were recovered. In turn, Tebbs owner John Tebbetts was charged with possessing and selling bath salts.
Wednesday. he was back in federal court to plead guilty.
"Tebbetts specifically admitted possessing in his warehouse in Rome, New York large containers containing 7,670.8 net grams of the synthetic cannibinoids, numerous one gram packets of legal funk and empty packets and labels for packing the drugs," said Jaquith.
This summer in Central New York, law enforcement responded to seven serious incidents involving bath salt use within seven weeks. They say many people started using the drugs because they felt they were safe because they came from established businesses.
"They are marketed in ways that facilitate the perception that they are not harmful. They are sold in neighborhood stores by helpful and friendly sales clerks, not in a back alley by a thug with a handgun," said Jaquith.
Now the U.S. Attorney's office says bath salt use has dropped off dramatically following the raids, but the battle to curb abuse is far from over.
In the meantime, Tebbetts will be back in court in April for his sentencing. Tebbetts faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the five drug related offenses. He also pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering, which could result in a ten year sentence. And in addition to prison time, he could pay a fine of more than $5 million.