Owner of Tebb's Headshop chain pleads guilty in federal court to sale of 'bath salts'

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Rome man who owns the Tebb's Headshop chain throughout Central New York has pleaded guilty in federal court to the sale of bath salts.

John Tebbetts, 33, of Rome, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Federal Court in Syracuse to possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances, controlled substance analogues, and engaging in a monetary transaction in property derived from specified unlawful activity.

As part of his plea, Tebbetts admitted to owning several Tebbs Head shops in Central New York and Maine, including Syracuse, Oneida, Utica and Herkimer. He also admitted using a warehouse on East Dominick Street in Rome to store the controlled substances.

Tebbetts admitted that he possessed synthetic cannibinoids, commonly referred to as "Spice" or "K2", and marketed by Tebbetts as 'Legal Phunk,' with the intent to distribute the products. Authorities say he also admitted to possessing synthetic cathinones, commonly known as "Bath salts", and distributed by Tebbetts as 'Clear' and 'Amped,' with the intent to distribute them and intending that they be used for human consumption.

He also admitted to purchasing a 2012 motor home for more than $157,000 with cash proceeds from his illegal sale of those products.

Tebbetts now faces up to a twenty year term of imprisonment on each of five drug counts, up to ten years for a single money laundering count and a fine of up to $5,250,000. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 29, 2013 in U.S. District Court.

As part of his plea, Tebbetts also agreed to forfeit $314,000 in cash along with six vehicles, including the motor home, a 2004 Toyota Scion, 2009 Cadillac CTS, two 2005 GMC trucks, and a 2009 Arctic Cat and trailer.

DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian R. Crowell stated,

"This is a prime example of adult drug dealers luring our youth into dangerous and deadly drug use," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian R. Crowell. "Bath salts are marketed as innocuous to teens who will try this dangerous drug sold in head shops and not sold by the corner drug dealer. However, Tebbetts is a drug dealer, disguised as a business selling Bath salts, Spice and K2 over the counter, knowing full well these controlled substances would be ingested by teens and young adults. DEA is committed to increasing the awareness of the dangers of these man made drugs that have zero legitimate use - using synthetic cathinones just one time may be your last time."

U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian praised the investigative agencies for their efforts.

"The dangers to public health and to police officers responding to those under the influence of bath salts that we witnessed this past summer has been significantly reduced due to the hard work and commitment of these law enforcement agencies," Hartunian said.

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