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More charged in drug ring blamed in Park Rapids teen's death

For the first time, federal prosecutors have charged people outside the Grand Forks area in the synthetic drug conspiracy blamed in the deaths of two teenagers, including one from Park Rapids, and for sending others to the hospital this summer.

In a grand jury indictment revealed Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Myers named Charles William Carlton, 28, of Katy, Texas, near Houston, as the "leader, organizer, manager and supervisor" of a ring that imported drugs from several countries.

Myers already has won guilty pleas from 11 people in the Grand Forks area, including Andrew Spofford, 22, who admitted he cooked, packaged and distributed hallucinogens that led to the deaths of Christian Bjerk, 18, and Elijah Stai, 17, of Park Rapids, in June in Grand Forks.

Spofford bought the chemicals for his drugs from Carlton, according to prosecutors.

Others named in the Thursday indictment are John Robert Polinski, 25, of Houston; Byron Joseph Landry, 27, of Kiln, Miss.; and Ryan Burton Lane, 27, who has lived in Thief River Falls, Grand Forks and Gonvick, Minn.

Myers said all four conspired to import and distribute several synthetic drugs in several states, including in Grand Forks, resulting in "death and serious bodily injury" from January 2011 until this past August.

The charges carry maximum penalties of life in prison.

Carlton and Polinski already have made initial appearances in federal court in Texas, Myers said Thursday. Lane is in the Tri-County jail in Crookston on separate Minnesota drug-related charges.

Internet firm

Myers alleged that Carlton, using a Houston Internet company he owns and runs named Motion Resources, imported illegal synthetic drugs and the chemicals to make them from several countries, including China, the United Kingdom, Austria, Poland, Greece, Spain and Canada.

Carlton and others, including Spofford, had the materials sent to many addresses in the United States to avoid law enforcement detection, Myers said. Carlton was distributing the drugs as recently as Aug. 24, Myers said.

The prosecutor demanded the return of profits he said Carlton made, including $385,000 in cash.

11 pleas

The case remains under investigation.

Those that have pleaded guilty include:

n Spofford, the self-described "hobby chemist" who made drugs sold by others in the Grand Forks area.

n Adam Budge, 19, East Grand Forks, who sold Spofford's drugs and gave Stai the drugs that killed him.

n Wesley Sweeney, 19, Manvel, N.D., described as an addict who bought drugs from Budge for himself, Bjerk and a 15-year-old boy named "C.J." Sweeney and the boy were hospitalized.

n Spofford's roommate William Fox, 24.

n And several others charged with conspiring to distribute Spofford's drugs: Ronald Norling III, 27, Grand Forks; Dillon Breen, 25, Grand Forks; Scott Anthony, 27; Steven Bucher, 21; Allyson Desantos, 22; Peter Hoistad, 22; and Casey Rosen, 23.

Already sentenced to federal prison are: Sweeney to 12.5 years; Hoistad to eight years; Fox to four years; and Norling to 27 months.