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Oct 23, 2013 9:29 PM by Tony Spehar

Federal authorities bust large synthetic drug ring in Colorado Springs

Months of investigation lead federal agents to raid the Spice of Life store on the 3200-block of South Academy Boulevard on Tuesday, breaking up what agents say could be one of the largest synthetic drug rings in Colorado history.

Drug Enforcement Administration officials said they seized over 150-pounds of synthetic marijuana, they said that amount was enough to make 45,000 doses that members of the ring packaged and sold from the Spice of Life store. They also seized real marijuana, guns and packaging equipment from the store as well as from the home of the store's owner. The investigation started with a tip from Colorado Springs Police in March that synthetic pot, also known as "spice," was being sold at the store.

"We seized about 157-pounds of raw material in which we could make spice, all kinds of flavorings, of course the stickers that go on all the packages and the packaging," described Agent Matthew Barden.

All told the material seized on Tuesday is enough to make 45,000 doses of synthetic marijuana and bath salts. Barden told News 5 that the ring is one of the largest dealing in synthetic drugs ever busted in Colorado. They dealt in drugs linked to at least three deaths and 75 overdoses statewide over the past few months.

"A lot of times they get into this stuff because they think with drug urinalysis and drug testing it's hard to detect," Barden explained.

Four people agents say operated the ring were arrested during the raid. Afterwards agent posed at employees of the shop and arrested five people who attempted to purchase drugs.

"These individuals are drug dealers, regardless of whether they thought it was right or wrong, legal or illegal, they're drug dealers and this was a drug trafficking organization," Barden described.

Despite the recent increased attention about the dangers of synthetic drugs Agent Barden said he believes that people don't know they're illegal and extremely hazardous. The business of selling the drugs is also continuing at a fevered pace.

"To me I would say it doesn't look like anyone's slowing down, when you can take 45,000 dosage units, 45-thousand people could use the substance that we have in here right now," Barden said, looking over a table covered in the seized materials.

The identities of those arrested haven't been revealed, they face a slew of state charges with more charges pending based on the results of tests on the seized drugs.

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