3 in Hayward plead guilty to dealing synthetic drugs imported from China

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Federal prosecutors say three residents of Hayward, Wisconsin, could each be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to dealing synthetic drugs shipped from China.

The announcement by the U.S. Attorney for western Wisconsin was published by WEAU of Eau Claire.

It came a day after the New York Times reported that makers and providers of synthetic drugs are flourishing in China.

The U.S. Attorney's office says Michael R. Moreno, 39, was placing orders from China for drugs known as "bath salts," – which mimic a stimulant found in some amphetamines.

According to the charges, Paul R. Heidbreder, 57, and Rhonda Jacquinot, 52, provided money to have 500-gram shipments of the drug sent to addresses in Wisconsin and Iowa for distribution in northwestern Wisconsin.

Prosecutors say they were paying less than $2 per gram and selling the bath salts for $100 a gram. Northland's News Center notes that would put the trio's profits at nearly $50,000 for each shipment.

The article in Sunday's New York Times says Chinese companies are selling synthetic drugs online to customers around the world.

According to the Times, at a single website more than 150 Chinese companies are selling the same drug that prosecutors say was being sent to Hayward.

Carla Freedman, an assistant district attorney in New York, prosecuted a ring trafficking drugs from Shanghai. Freedman told the Times: “I know prosecutors in Arizona, Virginia, Minnesota. We’re seeing cases nationwide and ground zero always seems to be China.”

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