Two Orange County men arrested Friday are charged with allegedly distributing millions of dollars worth of designer drugs sold as "spice" or "bath salts."
Sean Libbert, 38, of Newport Coast, and Kyle Kledzik, 26, of Dana Point, were arrested based on charges in a 16-count federal indictment unsealed Friday by prosecutors. The pair and four accomplices were the target of a three-year investigation by a Southern California federal and local drug task force. Three other individuals have previously been charged in connection with the scheme, authorities said.
"These substances may have benign names like 'spice' and 'bath salts,' but they've been linked to serious health complications and even death," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Los Angeles. "Compounding the concern is the fact that the distributors of these dangerous synthetic drugs are packaging and marketing them to appeal to young people."
The suspects' company called RCS Labs allegedly sold more $12 million worth of chemical products and so-called analogue substances to buyers, often through websites
"This groundbreaking investigation identified a complex scheme to import into Southern California large quantities of chemicals that are used to manufacture designer drugs such as spice," said Anthony D. Williams, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
According to the indictment the drugs often caused havoc for users. One customer who purchased six grams of cannabinoids from the group nearly died.
Libbert and his co-conspirators smuggled more than 300 kilograms of chemicals into the United States at a cost of more than $1.4 million, between March 2010 and July 2012, according to the indictment. The organization also allegedly bought more than 300 kilograms of chemicals from domestic sources.
Because of his criminal history, Libbert could face life in prison if convicted, according to prosecutors. Libbert also is charged with money laundering through banking transactions to make luxury purchases, such as a $1.4 million home in San Juan Capistrano.
Three of the Chinese nationals remain at large. A fourth, Jin Liu, 30, is already in federal custody in Jacksonville, Fla., on an unrelated drug case.
The government already has seized more than $1.1 million in assets related to the case and more than $700,000 in profits from the sale of Libbert's home. In 2012, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Task Force seized several luxury vehicles, hundreds pounds of the drugs, firearms and ammunition.