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Fake drugs can lead to real problems
3 men recently accused of trying to deal Epsom salt as meth to undercover cop
The fake drugs on the right that were confiscated recently are compared to real methamphetamine, seen at left. - photo by Tom Reed

Three pounds of Epsom salt and a Doritos bag was all it took to land three would-be drug dealer suspects in Hall County Jail last week.

They are accused of selling undercover agents fake methamphetamine. The drugs were phony, but the charges are real.

"One of the big misconceptions people have is, ‘Hey, the stuff isn't real, therefore I didn't do anything wrong.' Well that's not true," said Lt. Scott Ware with the Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad. "There's still a felony charge for possessing with intent to sell or selling imitation controlled substance."

The June 17 incident began when agents arrived at the Golden Parkway BP Station with the intention of purchasing 3 pounds of methamphetamine.

Instead, Ware said they were given a $55,500 Doritos bag full of similar looking Epsom salt.

"It didn't look right," he said.

"It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure this one out."

Buford men Thomas Delacruz, 26, Ricky Escobedo, 30, and Miguel Delacruz, 24, were eventually arrested in connection to the sale.

All three face charges of possession of imitation controlled substance with the intent to distribute.

Escobedo was also charged with use of a communications device to facilitate a drug transaction. He and Thomas Delacruz were charged with obstruction.

"That's one of those you can't put off," said Woodrow Tripp, commander of the Criminal Investigations Division. "People were coming there to supposedly sell you 3 pounds of meth. You just can't let them leave."

The sale of more than 400 grams of meth comes with a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and $1 million fine, according to District Attorney Lee Darragh.

Because the narcotics were fake, the men now face less severe charges. But Georgia Bureau of Investigation public information officer John Bankhead said that doesn't mean they weren't taking a big risk.

"They're probably lucky that they were cops," he said. "If you pull this off with a drug dealer, then there's going to be some serious repercussions for the person who sold the bad drugs intentionally."

Despite the risks, law enforcement said they occasionally stumble across fake drugs.

Epsom salt is the most common substitute for meth, but officers also said baking soda often is used as cocaine and Ivory soap as crack cocaine.

Tripp even remembers once buying a 5-kilogram package of plasterboard sold as cocaine.

"They think they're anonymous," he said.

"Who are you going to call, the police? What people fail to realize is their quality control is (that) you get killed when you start doing stuff like that."