Three men were arrested Tuesday in Ventura County on suspicion of selling and distributing a synthetic drug, known as bath salts, which was then sold at marijuana dispensaries, officials said.
Law enforcement is cracking down on the highly-addictive drug with psychedelic effects mainly used by young people. Officials said the makers of this drug use deceiving names and package the substance as something else.
"They name them attractive names, like 'lady bug attractant,' 'Bubbles,' and 'Stardust,' that sound completely innocent," said Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten.
Totten warned consumers not to let colorful wrappers, sometimes wrapped with cartoon characters, fool them. These so-called bath salts contain methamphetamine-like substances.
"Just one use could cause a psychotic episode, brain damage and even death," Totten said.
The trio of arrests comes after an undercover investigation, which began last June when a woman, who had taken bath salts, crashed into a house.
Investigators said Joshua Wright, 36, of Moorpark, and Brandon Sarrail, 26, of Simi Valley, run the Doughmain stores in Moorpark and Thousand Oaks, where detectives bought the drug. They were charged with possession for sale and sales of the drug.
"Bath salts are a problem and that’s why we don’t carry them anymore," said Doughmain employee Taylor Lopez. "And we are not going to be carrying them anymore."
Lopez works at the Moorpark location and said the owners took bath salts off the shelves. He told NBC4 that the drug is intended to be used as glass cleaners to clean tobacco paraphernalia.
"I’ve heard of everything from people eating it to snorting it," Lopez said.
Another man is in custody for allegedly making and distributing the illicit drugs to local shops. Hundreds of plants, powders and pills were seized from Jonathan Riedel’s home in Utah. Riedel, 31, of Utah, is accused of packaging and selling bath salts across the country and to two stores in Ventura County.
Prosecutors admit the illegal makers and sellers of bath salts are constantly changing the chemical formulas to trick law enforcement. But, if the drug resembles another one, violators can be caught.
"As long as the crime lab says this is substantially similar in structure then we will charge it," said Blake Heller, Ventura County deputy district attorney.
Deputies insist there is zero tolerance when it comes to bath salts, which can be bought over-the-counter and online, adding that investigators are tracking social media sites, like Facebook, to gather information and make arrests.