When the DEA arrested Miguel Ashby in June after a months-long undercover investigation, they alleged that he was the supplier of vast quantities of "bath salts" that went up the nostrils of New Yorkers too poor to afford cocaine. Now it seems the 26-year-old Everett man is on the verge of a guilty plea.
But while some states acted quickly to ban the active ingredients in the mystery powders marked "not for human consumption," they remained legal in some jurisdictions. Ashby saw an opportunity to capitalize and created a company called Ascension Therapeutics. He allegedly imported bulk quantities of the powders from China, then repackaged them at his home in Everett to sell under brand names like "Blue Magic," "Charlie Sheene" and "White Girl."
The re-packaging is where Ashby ran afoul of the law, specifically FDA regulations that prohibit shipping and receiving "mis-branded" drugs. According to court documents, Ashby delivered the bath salts to his partners in New York via an "undercover mailbox" in Connecticut. DEA agents spent the better part of five months visiting stores with names like "Tattoo Heaven," "Addiction NYC," "Addiction Ink," "Crazy Fantasy Tattoo," "Smoking Culture," and, best of all, "Fugetaboutit."
Ashby allegedly sold these bath salts and other brands via his website AscensionTherapetics.com
At Fugetaboutit, located in Brooklyn, proprietor Yakob "Jack" Bitton allegedly told one of the undercover narcs that Ashby's "White Lightning" brand was the "best shit" that offered "a better high than cocaine." According to the DEA, Bitton also allegedly said that he supplied "exotic dancers who used the drug while working in Manhattan." It probably was not in those exact words.
Ultimately, the DEA seized 40 kilos of bath salts (worth an estimated $2 million, about $50 per gram), and ten people including Ashby were slapped with federal drug conspiracy charges. Ashby is currently charged with five separate counts of conspiracy, receipt, and delivery of mis-branded food and drugs. If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 11 years in prison and $260,000 in fines.
But a letter sent last week to the Southern District of New York judge presiding over the case, Ashby's attorney notes a recent "development in the plea negotiation" with federal prosecutors. Ashby is due back in court December 28, and case will likely continue into 2012.