The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

May 1, 2013

Bath salts case headed to trial May 14

MORGANTOWN — A Clarksburg man who prosecutors said ran two West Virginia shops that sold large quantities of illegal bath salts will stand trial May 14, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

John Skruck, 56, had sought to delay his trial on more than two dozen drug-related charges. Defense attorney Thorn Thorn said he’s received more than 10,000 pages of discovery — 1,000 since mid-March — and needed three more months to prepare.

Thorn also complained he only got a list of the government’s intended witnesses about 10 days ago.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob McWilliams countered that the defense has had access to many documents for months, including interviews with a potential witness that have been available for about a year.

U.S. District Judge Irene Keeley agreed after a hearing in Clarksburg.

McWilliams also said two witnesses are federal Drug Enforcement Administration chemists whose names have been on their lab reports for months. The defense has long known it would need its own expert witnesses to counter their testimony, he said, so there is no justification for a delay.

A pretrial memo, meanwhile, suggested it was Skruck — not owner Jeffrey Paglia — who ran the Hot Stuff Cool Things stores in Buckhannon and Clarksburg before federal authorities raided and closed them last April.

Authorities called the stores a major distributor of hallucinogenic bath salts in north-central West Virginia and noted that Paglia planned to open a third store in Fairmont.

Paglia will be sentenced in July on one count of drug conspiracy and one count of structuring monetary transactions to evade reporting requirements. Two of his other employees are to be sentenced June 10. But Skruck, who functioned as general manager, is facing the most charges under a 27-count superseding indictment filed in February.

McWilliams’s memo to the court said Skruck not only set up a system for Paglia to skim from the stores’ profits but then skimmed a second time for his own gain.

Prosecutors said Skruck and Paglia met in a Buckhannon bar that Skruck ran, but by August 2011, Skruck had returned to his home state of Texas to run several strip clubs. Paglia convinced Skruck to return and help him.

That same summer, authorities began doing surveillance and “trash pulls” at the stores, recovering cash register tapes and receipts that detailed what was being sold, including the type, weight and price of products.

They revealed the stores made about 5 percent of their money on “hippie” clothing sales and 95 percent from illegal drugs — sometimes more than $20,000 a day, McWilliams wrote. As time went on, however, Paglia distanced himself and focused on investing in real estate and equipment.

In November 2011, Skruck moved into a church that Paglia had purchased and had drugs delivered there for both his local and Texas operations — without Paglia’s knowledge, McWilliams said.

 

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West Virginia
  • Symptoms match with spilled chemical

    For two weeks following a January chemical spill into the public water supply, hundreds of West Virginians examined in emergency rooms had ailments consistent with exposure to the chemical, health officials said Wednesday.
    Federal toxic substance experts and the state Bureau for Public Health stopped short of saying that their analysis determined without a doubt that patients’ problems stemmed from chemical contact.

    April 24, 2014

  • West Virginia chemical safe level following spill based on two weeks

    When federal officials decided what chemical levels West Virginians could safely consume in water tainted by a January spill, their standard assumed people would be exposed for two weeks, not 100-plus days.

    April 23, 2014

  • Some state Democrats flip to GOP

    As Republicans rally for more control in West Virginia’s long-time Democratic Legislature, a few Democrats have jumped ship to the GOP and are challenging former colleagues in midterm races.
    Republicans face their biggest election opportunity in decades in the House of Delegates, where a four-seat swing would put them in power for the first time in 85 years.

    April 20, 2014

  • Gee’s move could save Ohio State millions

    Ohio State University expects to save millions of dollars because former president Gordon Gee is giving up part of his retirement package as he becomes president of West Virginia University for the second time.

    April 19, 2014

  • W.Va. AG court filings: Dismiss gun law question

    The attorney general says a court challenge should be dismissed over whether West Virginians can bring guns to city recreational facilities that hold school events.
    Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s filings Thursday argue the city of Charleston shouldn’t receive court guidance on how to implement a state gun law.

    April 18, 2014

  • Energy-state Dems split from Obama

    Scrapping to keep a West Virginia Senate seat Democratic in a state that’s sprinted to the right, Natalie Tennant is counting on her allegiance to the coal industry to separate herself from an unpopular President Barack Obama.
    Her approach reflects common Democratic strategy and tactics this midterm election year in energy-producing states that lean Republican: Sen. Mary Landrieu is vying for a fourth term representing Louisiana; Alaska Sen. Mark Begich is running for re-election for the first time; and Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes wants to replace Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

    April 17, 2014

  • Official: $2M in chemical spill costs reimbursable

    Public agencies and nonprofits that helped after a Jan. 9 chemical leak into the water supply could receive $2 million in reimbursements for their emergency work, a West Virginia homeland security official said.
    Federal and state emergency officials briefed fire departments, paramedics and other government groups Wednesday on how to recoup costs.

    April 17, 2014

  • Manchin urges mines to speak out for coal

    The Democratic senator leading the battle against the White House’s strategy to fight climate change urged the mining industry on Tuesday to speak out about coal’s role in providing affordable, reliable electricity to the country to help combat strict new emissions rules for coal-fired power plants.

    April 16, 2014

  • Many schools already meet new mandate for breakfast

    Many West Virginia public schools have changed the way they serve breakfast to students ahead of a requirement that goes into effect in September.

    April 14, 2014

  • W.Va. grower promotes unmodified feed corn

    Lyle Tabb is hoping that his non-genetically modified corn will take off with farmers who can charge top dollar for “all natural” eggs.
    Genetically modified or GMO corn has greatly simplified the process of getting rid of weeds, but has also substantially increased the amount of a chemical call glyphosate.

    April 13, 2014

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