BANGOR, Maine — A woman accused of being part of a conspiracy to distribute bath salts in Penobscot County two years ago pleaded guilty to a drug charge Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
Jessica Bryden, 21, of Greenbush worked with the her boyfriend, Ryan Ellis, 32, formerly of Greenbush and Dover-Foxcroft, to package and distribute bath salts to other members of the conspiracy for sale between April 1 and Dec. 31, 2011, according to the prosecution version of events to which she pleaded guilty. Bryden also collected money from the sale of bath salts.
Bryden pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute analogue and controlled substances, or MDPV. A second charge of maintaining a drug-involved place is expected to be dismissed at sentencing, according to her plea agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office.
MDPV, also called bath salts, is known to cause paranoia, convulsions and psychotic behavior in users.
A sentencing date has not been set.
Bryden has been held without bail at the Somerset County Jail since her arrest Aug. 9.
She was one of 14 defendants charged in federal court in connection with an alleged bath salts distribution ring. Bryden is the fourth defendant to plead guilty to charges rather than go to trial.
Matthew Tardiff, 27, of Old Town and Adam Hathorn, 36, and Tina “Fumble” Keaton, 32, both of Bangor, also have pleaded guilty to the drug conspiracy charge and await sentencing, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Michael “Bub” Tardiff, 53, of Old Town, Steven Orosco, 23, of Orrington, and Daniel Hines, 37, of Orrington are scheduled to plead guilty to the same charge over the next month. All have been held without bail since their arrests last summer.
Ellis, 32, also known as “Dude,” “Calvin” or “Piles,” has pleaded not guilty to four counts — conspiracy to possess and distribute a controlled substance, using or maintaining a drug-involved residence in Old Town with Bryden and Tardiff, unlawful use of a controlled substance, and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense.
Ellis was living and working in Piscataquis County when he was arrested on the federal charge Aug. 6, according to a previously published report. He was on community release from the Charleston Correctional Facility, serving a three-year state sentence on a drug charge, when he was indicted on the federal charges. He chose to return to the state prison to complete his sentence on the state charge rather than be held without bail on the federal charge.
Alan Ketchen, 40, formerly of Bangor, who is known as “AJ” or “Hobbes,” pleaded not guilty to the drug conspiracy charge and an additional charge of using or maintaining a drug-involved residence at 10 Blackstone St. in Bangor to deal bath salts. He is being held without bail.
Others charged with drug conspiracy are: Jacob Gagnon, 25, of Van Buren, formerly of Bangor, also known as “Jake the Snake”; April Kane, 28, of Gorham; Elizabeth Mikotowicz, 27, of Bangor; and Gina Nelson, 30, of Bradley.
All pleaded not guilty to the drug conspiracy charge. All but Mikotowicz are free on bail.
If convicted, defendants charged with drug conspiracy face up to 20 years in prison and a $2 million fine. In addition, Ellis, Ketchen and Tardiff face up to 20 years and fines of up to $500,000 for maintaining drug-involved premises if convicted on that charge.
On the gun charges, Ellis faces up to 10 years and a $250,000 fine for possessing a firearm while using drugs and between five years and life to be served consecutively to any sentence on the conspiracy charge for carrying firearms during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.