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Two charged with possession and intent to sell Flakka

A synthetic drug known as "bath salts," spills out of a bottle in an image released by the Drug Enforcement Agency. (FILE)

A synthetic drug known as “bath salts,” spills out of a bottle in an image released by the Drug Enforcement Agency. (FILE)

MIAMI June 19, 2015 – Two central Florida men were indicted Thursday for conspiracy to import alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone (A-PVP), also known as Flakka, from China. The charges resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO).

Michael J. Hernandez, 25, from Orlando, and Jonell Philip Vega-Mercado, 19, from Clermont, were charged with conspiracy to import and possession with the intent to distribute Flakka, a Schedule 1 controlled substance.  According to allegations in court records, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in Chicago identified, searched and detained multiple packages destined for Broward County. The packages were shipped from China and allegedly contained several kilograms of Flakka. Hernandez and Vega-Mercado were apprehended when they attempted to pick up two packages in Ft. Lauderdale. In total, law enforcement seized approximately 24 pounds of Flakka with a street value of approximately $500,000.

Michael Hernandez (Photo: Florida Dept. Corrections)

Michael Hernandez (Photo: Florida Dept. Corrections)

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “The continued collaboration between federal and local law enforcement agencies to attack the trafficking and importation of Flakka, and protect our community from exposure to this dangerous and potentially deadly drug, is of paramount importance.  Today’s charges demonstrate that we are dedicated to improving public safety and the quality of life for law-abiding residents by protecting our neighborhoods and schools, adopting proactive law enforcement initiatives, and prosecuting repeat offenders, firearms violators, and narcotics traffickers.”

“These dangerous synthetic drugs compromise the public safety of our communities,” said HSI Miami Special Agent in Charge Alysa D. Erichs.  “As today’s charges demonstrate, HSI will continue to aggressively target this emerging threat to the South Florida region.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge A.D. Wright stated, “Synthetic drugs are the most lethal drugs out there today no matter what trendy names these drugs dealers attach to them. Last year it was Molly, now it’s Flakka, and who knows what it will be called next.  These are only street terms and these drugs can contain anything. The users are allowing themselves to be utilized as guinea pigs.  They have no idea what they are putting into their bodies.  The DEA will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to keep our citizens safe and put these dangerous drug dealers out of business.”

“The Fort Lauderdale Police Department will continue to work with various federal agencies and local partners to break the pipeline of Flakka entering our community,” said Ft. Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley.

“These drug dealers are only interested in padding their pockets and have complete disregard for the damage they cause to our families and our communities,” said Broward Sheriff Scott Israel.  “In addition to our enforcement efforts, I’ve put together a team of experts from our agency to educate the community about the dangers of this deadly drug in an effort to prevent more deaths.”

If convicted, Hernandez and Vega-Mercado face up to 20 years in prison for each offense.

Information from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)