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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

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Miguel Ashby, Seattle Bath Salts Kingpin, Negotiating Plea Bargain in New York

Ashby 150x120.jpg
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.

According to court documents, Ashby first appeared on the DEA's radar in February. That same month the agency's New York City field office created a "Bath Salts Task Force" to investigate sales of the recently outlawed designer drugs in headshops and tattoo parlors across the Big Apple.
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Miguel Ashby
Bath salts were a hot-button issue at the time. The drugs -- loaded with chemicals that offer highs akin to ecstasy, coke, and meth -- appeared in the U.S. about two years ago, and quickly attracted the attention of lawmakers and law-enforcement officials. A DEA agent writes in Ashby's charging documents that the drugs have been "linked to overdose, death, suicide, homicide, self-inflicted wounds, and child endangerment," and that, "in first four months of 2011, Poison Control Centers nationwide received 1,782 calls involving 'bath salts' compared to 302 calls during all of 2010."

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."

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Ashby allegedly sold these bath salts and other brands via his website AscensionTherapetics.com
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."

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.

Miguel Ashby Court Documents

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