An Evansdale man pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to distribution of synthetic drugs and faces up to 20 years in prison.
Earl E.J. Ramos pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of a controlled substance analogue. During the plea, Ramos, manager of the Five Star Snacks store, 315 Fletcher Ave. in Waterloo, admitted to selling bath salts or incense items that contained illegal substances to confidential informants in October 2012. He also admitted to knowing that they were illegal substances and would be used for human consumption or smoking.
Ramos faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. He remains in custody pending sentencing.
According to the plea, Waterloo Police officers first told Ramos in May 2012 that the substances were illegal and seized the items from the store but then Ramos began selling them again.
The store was raided in 2013 as part of a national enforcement effort cracking down on synthetic drugs, along with other Eastern Iowa stores that were selling illegal bath salts or incense commonly smoked like marijuana.
According to the affidavit, authorities seized synthetic drugs and cash from the store and Ramos’ truck. Ramos told officers the more than $14,000 seized came from the sale of synthetics and other items at the business.
Officers also found a large quantity of synthetic marijuana, bath salts, an undetermined amount of U.S. and Canadian money, five firearms, 13 boxes of ammunition and other items from Ramos’ home.
A civil forfeiture is pending for $14,136, which prosecutors contend is proceeds from the sale of controlled substances or controlled substance analogues, and/or used to facilitate the sale.
Ramos is the first to be convicted of four Eastern Iowans who face charges involving distributing or selling synthetic drugs.
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