FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota man who described himself to police as a “hobby chemist” and was accused of cooking up synthetic drugs that led to the overdose deaths of two teenagers pleaded guilty to five counts Monday.
Court documents portray Andrew Spofford as a “leader, organizer, manager, and supervisor” in a conspiracy to deal synthetic substances and other drugs in the Grand Forks area. The case in federal court has led to calls for tougher laws against homemade drugs designed to mimic the effects of marijuana, stimulants and LSD.
The five counts that Spofford pleaded guilty to included conspiracy to distribute controlled substances resulting in serious bodily injury and death. He also admitted to dealing cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy, and delivering a drug meant to counteract effects of the hallucinogens that did not have instructions for use.
“Do you want to accept the plea agreement?” U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson asked.
“I do,” the 22-year-old Spofford replied. He will be sentenced next year.
Spofford’s attorney, John Goff, had no comment after the hearing. The plea agreement was not immediately on file.
Christian Bjerk, 18, of Grand Forks, and Elijah Stai, 17, of Park Rapids, Minn., died within a week of each other in June after ingesting the hallucinogens. Stai is believed to have ingested powder that was mixed with melted chocolate, cooled and eaten like candy, police said.
Other people reportedly required medical treatment from the batch of synthetic drugs. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Myers said Monday that one juvenile who ingested some of Spofford’s drugs was hospitalized in intensive care “for quite some time.”
Authorities said Spofford manufactured the drugs by mixing chemicals ordered on the Internet from the United States, Europe, India and China. Spofford told investigators he cooked the drugs in his home.
Spofford is one of several people charged in the case that has spanned local, state and federal jurisdictions. North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem told lawmakers at a hearing earlier this month that the use of synthetic drugs is becoming epidemic in the state.
Spofford faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years. Prosecutors have said they would recommend a sentence at the low end of the guideline range. Sentencing is set for Jan. 24 in Fargo.
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