Two men pleaded guilty Thursday to importing more than 24 pounds of the main ingredient in the street drug flakka from China to Broward County.
Federal authorities arrested a 25-year-old Orlando man and a 21-year-old Clermont man in June after they allegedly attempted to pick up packages from a shipping and mailbox store in Hollywood.
Homeland Security Investigations agents claim the packages contained the key ingredient for making the synthetic stimulant, which often causes hallucinations and psychosis.
The packages were apparently addressed to fake names and were intercepted while being shipped to commercial mailboxes in Weston and Hollywood, according to authorities.
The men apparently ordered large amounts of the drug to be shipped from labs in China and the conspiracy occurred from January to early June, according to the plea agreement.
According to reports, the men paid cash for mailbox services and used fake identities when they picked up the shipments.
At a federal court hearing in West Palm Beach, both men pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to import the drug ingredient.
The charge carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine.
The drug has been linked to several deaths in South Florida as well as many incidents of bizarre behavior.
Federal law makes it a crime to traffic drugs. Drug trafficking charges involves bringing an illegal substance from another place within the United States to another. Special consequences apply to the importation of drugs-bringing drugs from outside the United States into the country.
The penalties for violating federal drug importation laws depends on several factors- the drug involved, the quantities seized, whether use of the drug caused serious bodily injury or death and whether the person convicted has any previous drug-related convictions. Regardless of the circumstances, all the penalties are quite severe. A first conviction for a just a small quantity of a controlled substance, where no injury or death results, carries a minimum of 10 years in prison and a hefty fine.