Following a fourth wave of indictments in a multi-year drug investigation, a Pennsylvania man became the fifteenth defendant to enter a guilty plea for the distribution of alpha-pvp. The case, led by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), brought charges against suspects as early as 2013. The ongoing federal investigation tracked alpha-pvp traffickers across the United States that had imported the drug from China and subsequently passed it down to drug dealers and users in various parts of the US; Luzerne County, home of the fifteenth defendant was one of these locations.

Daniel Fitzgibbon, a 47-year-old from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, admitted to his role in a conspiracy to distribute alpha-pvp, U.S. Attorney Bruce Brandler said. According to court documents, Fitzgibbon’s guilty plea centered on his distribution of alpha-pvp to customers in Luzerne County between 2014 and 2015. The drug was ordered from China by multiple co-defendants who then redistributed the drug through at least 30 states.

Alpha-pvp has been frequently referred to in the mainstream media (and, in this case, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as “bath salts.” The hysteria died down, given the existence of increasingly dangerous deadly drugs for the media to focus on, but at the start of the alpha-pvp investigation, “bath salts” dominated headlines. Not that synthetic cathinones are absent from 2017, but that the United States influx of “bath salts” occurred between 2011 and 2015.

The DEA, in January 2014, temporarily listed alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone (alpha-pvp), along with nine other synthetic cathinones, on the list of Schedule 1 controlled substances. Later that year, the temporary ban became permanent. Prior to that year, as with the majority of Scheduled substance analogs, the drug resided in a somewhat legal gray area. It was not explicitly illegal to possess or even sell—assuming no human consumption was involved. But given that cathinone has been illegal in the United States since the 1990s, synthetic cathinone—if knowledge of human consumption could be proven—the seller would be treated as if he or she had sold a Schedule 1 or 2 substance (Under the Federal Analog Act).

And thus, as seen in early cases where alpha-PVP was not still unscheduled, the courts noted the case that they needed to build against each defendant. One such example was in the case of another Luzerne County defendant who had trafficked alpha-PVP prior to mid-2014:

A controlled substance analogue is a drug which has not been scheduled under The Controlled Substances Act but shares a substantially similar chemical structure as a scheduled drug and has a substantially similar stimulant or hallucinogenic effect on a person’s central nervous system. Additionally, the government must also establish that drug was distributed for human consumption.”

The defendant, one named in an earlier a-PVP indictment, ultimately pleaded guilty to trafficking a controlled substance. His plea agreement contained a clause that he would accept the federal sentencing guidelines for the relevant charges if, during further investigation, deaths were attributable to his drug distribution. Of course, nearly a year later, a U.S. District Court Judge sentenced him to 12 years in prison for “Drug Delivery Resulting In Death.”

Fitzgibbon, under his plea agreement, can spend a maximum of 20 years in prison. For obvious reasons, unless his case is reopened, the chances of Fitzgibbon serving more than 12 years are incredibly low.

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