SUPPORT THIS INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM
The article you’re about to read is from our reporters doing their important work — investigating, researching, and writing their stories. We want to provide informative and inspirational stories that connect you to the people, issues and opportunities within our community. Journalism requires lots of resources. Today, our business model has been interrupted by the pandemic; the vast majority of our advertisers’ businesses have been impacted. That’s why the DP Times is now turning to you for financial support. Learn more about our new Insider’s program here. Thank you.
By Andrea Papagianis
Federal authorities arrested two Orange County men Friday, June 13 on accusations they were part of a widespread, international scheme to smuggle, manufacture and distribute millions of dollars in synthetic drugs that produce effects similar to marijuana and Ecstasy.
Kyle Kledzik, 26, of Dana Point, and Sean Libbert, 38, of Newport Coast, are among six people charged in the case. The four others are Chinese nationals, three who remain at large, who authorities believe acted as chemical suppliers.
Kledzik and Libbert are charged with selling $12 million worth of synthetic drugs and chemicals used to create them through various internet websites to other distributors and individual users. Prosecutors allege Libbert ran the operation and employed Kledzik to handle package pickups and chemical shipments.
Authorities have labeled Libbert’s operation one of the nation’s largest importers and shippers of synthetic narcotics, such as “spice” and “bath salts.”
Spice, also known as K2, black mamba, fake weed and genie among others is synthetic marijuana. Bath salts are synthetic stimulants that are usually ingested by snorting, producing effects like amphetamines, cocaine, Khat, LSD and MDMA, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The arrests stem from a near three-year investigation involving agents with the Southern California Drug Task Force, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service and DEA.
“These substances may have benign names like ‘spice’ and ‘bath salts,’ but they’ve been linked to serious health complications and even death,” said special agent Claude Arnold with ICE. “Compounding the concern is the fact that distributors … are packaging and marketing them to appeal to young people.”
Arnold warned others involved in illicit drug trades that while this was the first prosecution of its kind locally, it would not be the last.