In 2015, police connected an overdose in Winchester, Virginia, to “Smarties,” a type of candy. Police warned of an odd color or feel as they were still damp with a chemical compound. They told the public that the candies were laced with a psychedelic compound “similar to LSD.”
On June 2017, the person responsible for the distribution of laced candies received his prison sentence. Christopher Michael Sweeney II, a 21-year-old from Cross Junction, Va., heard the judge pass down a four year prison term and a three year period of supervised release. In February 2017, the defendant pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to receive a misbranded drug with the intent to defraud and mislead.
Sweeney’s drug-laced Smarties, which the police and media described as “similar to LSD,” contained flubromazolam.
Flubromazolam (fLam for short) is not even mildly psychedelic. The IUPAC name alone gives away the fact that fLam is basically a completely maxed out benzodiazepine: 8-bromo-6-(2-fluorophenyl)-1-methyl-4H-[1,2,4]triazolo[4,3-a] [1,4]benzodiazepine. Similarly, the drug is detectable in urine and registers a positive even on basic 12-panel tests.
“[T]he drug in question is believed to be 25I-NBOMe, commonly referred to as 25I,” a Winchester PD press release explained.
The investigation began after an unidentified female died of unknown causes. Her complete cause of death was not included in the DoJ documentation. Acting United States Attorney Rick A. Mountcastle cast some blame on the defendant—he sold flubromazolam as Xanax between June and September 2015. The drug is not federally regulated in the US.
“[The] flubromazolam contributed to the female victim’s overdose and death,” the Acting Attorney said. He added, “It is unfortunate that we could only prosecute this serious crime with tragic consequences under the FDA’s misbranding statute.” Sweeney admitted that he knew his customers had crashed while driving places and had caused serious injury or death. He sold them nonetheless.
Per his plea agreement, Sweeney admitted that he purchased the flubromazolam Smarties at $0.38 from a vendor on a darknet market. The vendor shipped Sweeney 100-300 candies at a time. After the packages arrived at his house or P.O. Box, he used and distributed them until he needed more. He charged between $5 and $8 per candy.
In order to sell them quickly, Sweeney lied to customers. He told them that the Smarties contained Xanax. Some of his customers heard a lie that somewhat resembled the truth; he told those customers that the candy had a research chemical in it to make the Xanax stronger. Mountcastle pointed out the ruthlessness of Sweeney’s actions:
“Sweeney distributed this dangerous drug for profit by disguising it as candy and falsely claiming that it was Xanax, ruthlessly ignoring the substantial risk of death posed by this drug. My heart goes out to parents of the young victim and I deeply regret that the unscheduled nature of this drug precluded a prosecution for more serious crimes.”
DEA Special Agent in Charge Karl C. Colder added, “The complexity of the laws regarding synthetic drugs and the use of the dark web made this a difficult case to prosecute.” As a result of this case, flubromazolam was effectively placed in and recognized as a Schedule I drug in Virginia.