BANGOR, Maine — A small group of men who ran in the same drug circle have been identified by law enforcement officials as the “fathers” of the synthetic bath salts problem, which still has a stronghold in Bangor and Rockland.
“A couple guys were selling it as coke and a couple guys were selling it as [crystal] meth” in early 2011, Jim Pease, special agent supervisor for the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency’s midcoast regional task force, which serves Waldo, Knox, Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties, said recently. “That lasted about a couple of weeks until people figured it out. The high was much more extreme than on cocaine. They realized it wasn’t coke and started to talk.”
Drug users liked the designer drug because it was cheap and they could use it and still pass traditional drug tests, he said.
Pease only provided the name of one member of the drug-dealing ring because he has been arrested and is serving time for trafficking in bath salts, but said all the others have been arrested since for other drug-related crimes.
Ryan Ellis, 33, of Bangor was caught in Brewer with nearly a pound of the dangerous drug and several weapons in December 2011.
“He was one of the first running between Brewer and Rockland,” Pease said.
Ellis is serving a seven-year sentence, with all but three years suspended, which he started a year ago. He will be placed on probation for two years after his release from prison.
“There is a real connection between Rockland and Bangor because of these guys,” Pease said. “The original stuff that showed up here was coming from Bangor by just a couple of people who knew each other.”
Leonard “Lenny” Wells, 53, of Hermon and Greenbush, who was identified as “a figurehead in the bath salts movement in Maine” when arrested this week, is not a father of the bath salts epidemic but is an uncle, Pease said.
“He wasn’t one of the original originals but he fell in shortly after,” he said.
Both Bangor, where bath salts are sold under the name monkey dust, and Rockland, where it is called Rave-on, still have problems with the drugs, Darrell Crandall, MDEA’s Division II commander, who covers from Kennebec and Somerset counties north, said in a January Bangor Daily News story about a new type of bath salts in Maine.
“I just think they got the early taste of it and it just kind of stayed,” Pease said. “We’re still dealing with bath salts.”
The arrest of Wells and three others on Jan. 18 has had a ripple effect in the Rockland area, the drug agent said.
“A lot of the big arrests in Bangor has helped slow things down down here,” Pease said, referring to the seizure of nearly 25 pounds of bath salts since mid-January.
“We don’t usually see the beginning of something,” the drug agent said of the emerging use of bath salts in Maine. “That is exactly how it became a problem — [a couple] guys, one weekend and it just started to grow.”