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Texas man pleads not guilty in Grand Forks synthetic drug case that killed PR teen

Charles William Carlton

A Texas man accused of being the leader of a ring that imported chemicals used in hallucinogens that killed two teenagers in June in Grand Forks was arraigned in federal court in Fargo Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

Charles William Carlton, 28, pleaded not guilty to three charges that could put him in prison for life.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Myers said Carlton has previous felony drug convictions, and that Carlton's drug-dealing led to the two deaths as well as "serious bodily injury" of at least three other people.

According to the prosecutor's charges, Carlton was "the leader, organizer, manager and supervisor" of a conspiracy that includes John Polinski in Houston; Byron Landry, known as "Triple Screw," in Kiln, Miss.; and Ryan Lane, a former Grand Forks resident now jailed in Crookston on separate state drug charges.

The chemicals Carlton imported were cooked by Andrew Spofford, 22, in his Grand Forks apartment into the deadly hallucinogens.

Big profits

Carlton, from Katy, near Houston, ordered drugs from China, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, Greece and Canada, and made lots of money reselling them, according to Myers.

The prosecutor asked the court to order Carlton to forfeit all profits, including $385,000 in cash.

Carlton and others in his ring would have shipments sent to addresses all over the United States on different dates to avoid detection by law enforcement, Myers said.

The alleged dealing began January 2011 and went on as recently as Aug. 24, according to the federal indictment against Carlton.

In court Tuesday, he told the judge he had only a 10th-grade education, according to court documents.

Carlton was brought to Fargo this week from Texas, where he had been jailed for more than a month, and will remain in federal custody until a detention hearing, perhaps later this week, a court official said.

Landry was arraigned last week in Fargo.

Polinski appeared in federal court Tuesday in Fargo, and was released pending his next appearance.

Others in case

Eleven people in the case, most of them former UND students, have already pleaded guilty, including Spofford.

Five have been sentenced. The latest was Scott Anthony, 27, sentenced Monday in Fargo to 15 months in prison for dealing Spofford's drugs.

That's the shortest sentence so far. Other sentences ranged from 27 months to 12.5 years in prison.

Anthony's attorney, Darla Schuman of Grand Forks, said he met Spofford at a bar in January 2012, and agreed to distribute Spofford's drugs, mostly to use them himself. But, she said, he quit dealing after his arrest in April, long before anyone died or was hurt by the drugs.

"He was never part of the primary conspiracy," she said Tuesday.

Myers said the investigation "continues both domestically and internationally."