With his guilty plea Wednesday, Steven Kloh became the first person to be convicted in a West Virginia federal court for the distribution of the synthetic drug known as "bath salts."
Kloh, 35, of Columbus, Ohio, pleaded guilty before Judge Frederick P. Stamp Jr. to aiding and abetting interstate travel in aid of a racketeering enterprise. He remains in custody pending sentencing and faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Kloh traveled from Columbus to rural Tyler County in September, selling about 180 vials of bath salts to a Tyler County Sheriff's Department confidential informant. The Drug Enforcement Agency also assisted in the investigation.
Bath salts are synthetic chemical compounds created to simulate the psychological and hallucinogenic effects of other controlled substances such as methamphetamine and ecstasy. They are addictive and are often sold at gas stations, convenience stores and over the Internet.
Although the substances are illegal, U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II said he believes they are still being sold at stores throughout the state. As long as distributors stand to gain a significant profit, he said he expects the illegal sale of bath salts to continue.
"This is the first federal conviction in West Virginia for a bath salts dealer but unfortunately it won't be the last, as synthetic drugs have become a major problem," Ihlenfeld said. "We have several pending cases involving the same type of conduct and many others under investigation."
Ihlenfeld noted how bath salts gained national attention when a Florida man was believed to be high on the drug when he attacked and chewed off most of a homeless man's face.
The attacker was fatally shot by a police officer during the incident. Many officials doubted the autopsy report that determined the attacker was not high on bath salts during the incident.