Posted: Feb 19 03, 07:34 AM GMT
Investigators: Magic mushrooms via the Web
By CHRIS INGALLS / KING 5 Investigators
They're called "magic mushrooms" and they produce an illegal high. Tuesday, federal agents raided a local company that made tens of thousands of dollars a month selling them on the Internet.
The KING 5 Investigators have been looking into this company for weeks now.
The company is known as Fanaticus and they sell syringes, filled with a solution with countless spores.
With these and a little know-how, just about anyone can grow potent psychedelic mushrooms.
KING 5 was there when drug agents brought in one of two men suspected of putting a high-tech twist on the sale of an old-time drug by operating Fanaticus, the Web site that sells the magic mushrooms via the Internet.
Agents say the men operated out of a home near Lake Quinault in the remote rain-forest country of the Olympic Peninsula – the perfect climate for growing mushrooms.
Authorities say they first heard about Fanaticus in phone calls coming in from across the country.
The KING 5 Investigators obtained some syringes from Fanaticus. A close look shows the tiny black spores floating in a solution.
Prosecutors say the spores themselves are not illegal. They don't contain the hallucinogenic properties of a full-grown mushroom, but the Web site contains specific instructions on how to inject the spores into a jar and grow a potent magic mushroom.
"It's the equivalent of selling somebody the ingredients to make meth and telling them how to mix it up, and getting paid for it. You'd be guilty of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine," said Doug Whalley, federal prosecutor.
At $10 per syringe, it appears the suspects’ worldwide sales were making them rich.
At a court hearing Tuesday, suspected ringleader Robert McPherson admitted earning $30,000 per month and authorities say his only source of income comes from his thriving mail-order mushrooms.
DEA and the postal inspector’s office have been investigating Fanaticus for years. They actually planted some of these spores and grew mushrooms in a DEA lab to make sure the process works. And it did.
The Daily world
'Magic' mushroom bust at Quinault
By Lisa Curdy -- Daily World writer
Federal Drug Enforcement agents arrested two Lake Quinault - area men Tuesday in connection with an international operation that allegedly sold hallucinogenic mushroom spores over the Internet.
"It is unusual - a strange situation," Federal prosecutor Doug Whalley said from Seattle this morning. "The spores themselves - their possession is not a crime. It's not a controlled substance.
"But it is a crime to conspire to grow a controlled substance."
Robert McPherson of Amanda Park, one of the accused, appeared in federal court in Tacoma Tuesday afternoon and said he was making upwards of $30,000 per month selling the spores, according to KING Television.
Steve Coggin of Neilton, the second defendant, was arrested at a motel at SeaTac. Both are accused of possessing a controlled substance and conspiring to deliver a controlled substance.
Following more than three years of investigation into the worldwide sale of syringes filled with "magic mushroom" spores on fanaticus.com, the DEA and National Park Service investigators served three search warrants in the Lake Quinault area Tuesday afternoon. Grays Harbor Sheriff's deputies and Drug Task Force agents also participated.
The Fanaticus company, an Internet - based mail order operation, sold "magic mushroom" spores in a liquid solution inside blunt - tipped syringes, according to its Web site.
It advertised in High Times magazine and at its Web site, according to Mike Butler, the lead investigator for the National Park Service. The pair reportedly filled orders for 30 to 50 boxes of the spores per day at about $10 per syringe, he added.
A Post Office box listed an Amanda Park address, and the investigation began after a tip by the United States Postal Service, Butler said.
McPherson was arrested at his home at 630 North Shore Road around 8 a.m. for investigation of conspiring to deliver a controlled substance and possessing a controlled substance, Butler told The Daily World.
The two other search warrants were served at 469 North Shore Road and at Coggin's Neilton home, Butler said.
In Amanda Park, several vehicles were seized, along with other evidence, Grays Harbor Undersheriff Rick Scott said.
"Plus, we found an active mushroom grow on the property of one of the defendants that they were using to get the spores," Whalley said.
Investigators are still seeking additional suspects. McPherson may be indicted as early as Friday, Whalley said.
"He's not facing a lengthy sentence" if convicted, the prosecutor said. "It wouldn't be like the 10 - year sentences we usually see."
Lake Quinault residents noticed the presence of federal agents earlier this week.
"It all started (Monday) night," a Lake Quinault - area business owner said this morning. "I seen helicopters, all of these federal vehicles.
"Then they all met up here at the Forest Service (Tuesday) morning at 6."
McPherson was a regular at the business owner's shop, the man said.
"I knew him for three or four years, and knew he was in the Internet business - but not the mushroom thing."
Lisa Curdy, a Daily World writer, can be reached at (360) 532 - 4000, ext. 129, or by e - mail at [email protected]
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