NEWTON FALLS - Richard Powell said he wasn't surprised Wednesday when he watched, for the second time this year, federal agents and local police sweep into the house across the street from his.
Law enforcement initiated a raid at 31 E. Church St. about 8 a.m. and remained at the residence until about 2 p.m.
Two people, Ryan Kralik, 32, of Newton Falls, and Ruth Eimers, 36, of Ravenna, were arrested at the house and are each facing charges in connection with an alleged bath salts operation.
Bath salts is a term for a class of designer drugs that are similar in effect to cocaine and amphetamine.
Federal agents and police conducting the search on Wednesday provided little information as they carried boxes and bags from their vehicle to the house and back again.
However, officials later reported that a federal grand jury had returned a six-count indictment - that was unsealed on Wednesday - charging Kralik and Eimers each with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and distribution of bath salts, Schedule I controlled substance analogues and a Schedule I controlled substance; importation of bath salts, a controlled substance analogue, from the People's Republic of China; attempted possession with the intent to distribute bath salts, a controlled substance analogue; use of the Internet for a controlled substance offense; distribution of bath salts, Schedule I controlled substance analogues; and possession with the intent to distribute bath salts, Schedule I controlled substance analogues.
Homeland Security agents carry boxes marked ‘‘evidence’’ from 31 E. Church St., Newton Falls, on Wednesday. Two people, Ryan Kralik, 32, of Newton Falls, and Ruth Eimers, 36, of Ravenna, were arrested at the house and are each facing charges in connection with an alleged bath salts operation.
Kralik and Eimers each pleaded not guilty during initial court appearances in Akron on Wednesday. Kralik is being held without bond until a detention hearing scheduled for July 3 in Youngstown is held. Bond for Eimers was set at $25,000.
Meanwhile, residents of the quiet corner neighborhood of the village, including Powell, said a helicopter overhead alerted them to the raid.
"The place sat empty for a long time and then these two moved in," said Powell, who lives across the street.
"In Newton Falls everybody knows everybody and people know what's going on with each other. Not those two. They keep to themselves, not real friendly. You never know what they're up to. A lot of mystery there. Let's just say this isn't unexpected. It doesn't surprise me to see police here," he said.
The house, a rental property, is owned by Bradford and Heather Cope of Newton Falls, according to the Trumbull County Auditor's website. The house was also raided in February. However, no one was arrested at that time.
Attempts by a Tribune Chronicle reporter to reach Bradford Cope by telephone on Wednesday were not successful.
Powell said several months ago he heard a sizeable, albeit muffled, "boom" he thought might have come from the attached garage area of the house, but couldn't be sure.
"I was inside my house and I heard it. When I looked out, I noticed the light was on in the garage, but all the windows were covered," he said.
Officials reported that Kralik and Eimers own and operate a website named freshsalts.com, which offers for sale 10 to 15 different types of bath salts ranging in price from $29 to $59. The indictment against them states that customers can also purchase bulk amounts of bath salts from the website for between $299 and $459.
The bath salts are offered for sale with names similar to slang terms for cocaine and heroin, such as "Eightballz Extreme," "Faux-Caine" and "Zombie Girls Extra Strength," among others, according to the indictment.
According to the site, customers also can get the "best euphoric bathing products, plant food, botanical nutrients, glass cleaners, stain removers, spot removers, specialty cleaning and multipurpose solutions, novelty powders and spiritual aides, energy products, alertness aides, romance enhancers, performance and endurance aides and legal highs and research chemicals (RC's) available anywhere on the market in the United States or Worldwide!"
It also has a lengthy section that explains why the company believes the crackdown on bath salts to be unconstitutional.
Customers who purchased bath salts from the website were required to pay with money orders or cashier's checks to R.M. Kralik, Western Union wire transfer to "Ryan Kralik" in Warren, Ohio, or by cash sent to "FGS" to a P.O. Box in Diamond, Ohio, according to the indictment.
Eimers assisted Kralik with distribution shipments and bookkeeping, the indictment states.
"People continue to come up with new ways to poison our children as long as they think there is money to be made," Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, remarked in a written statement. "These are very dangerous synthetic drugs that have nothing to do with baths or salt and everything to do with risky behavior."
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, the Portage County Drug Task Force and Portage County Sheriff's Office conducted the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Teresa Dirksen is prosecuting the case.