BANGOR, Maine — A Texas woman indicted for participating in one of the state’s largest bath salts distribution rings in Maine pleaded guilty Tuesday at the Penobscot Judicial Center to drug trafficking. She was sentenced to 2½ years in prison due to her “limited role” in the conspiracy.
Elizabeth Fuentes, 31, previously pleaded not guilty to aggravated trafficking in synthetic hallucinogenic drugs and unlawful possession of synthetic hallucinogenic drugs. Those charges were dropped after Fuentes pleaded guilty to the lesser charge.
The drug is known to cause paranoia, convulsions and psychotic behavior in users.
She was arrested Jan. 18 with three men at a Hermon home where at least eight pounds of the drug was being cut with foot powder and prepared for distribution, Assistant Attorney General Patrick Larson said Tuesday. All four have been held at the Penobscot County Jail unable to post bail since their arrests.
Larson said the case in which Fuentes is charged does not appear to be connected to the recent indictment of 14 people in federal court on charges of conspiracy to distribute bath salts in 2011.
Fuentes was described Tuesday by her defense attorney Hunter Tzovarras as co-defendant Arthur Coy’s “girlfriend.” She traveled from Texas to Maine with him, the Bangor lawyer told Superior Court Justice Ann Murray.
“Her role was very limited,” Tzovarras said. “She was not involved in the scheme except for that night.”
Larson told the judge that Fuentes had no criminal history. The prosecutor also said that a search of cell phones and computers from the Hermon house and motel room she shared with Coy showed she was not involved further in the drug distribution ring.
More than eight pounds of bath salts was recovered when she and three others were arrested. It was shipped to Texas and Maine from China, according to a previously published report.
Fuentes and Coy were indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury March 27 along with Leonard D. Wells Jr., 53, of Greenbush and Hermon and Stephen M. Warren, 29, of Corinth on drug and other charges.
In addition to the eight pounds seized Jan. 18 at Wells’ Hermon home, another 16 pounds that Coy allegedly sent to himself in Texas was seized several days later, Larson said Tuesday after Fuentes’ sentencing. The street value of the 24 pounds was estimated at $1.7 million, according to a previously published report.
Fuentes was the first to change her plea to guilty and be sentenced.
Larson told the judge Tuesday that the Texas woman was found in a bedroom of Wells’ home by Penobscot County Sheriff’s deputies when they went to perform a bail check on Wells. He was out on bail on a burglary charge, the drug prosecutor said.
Wells and his stepson Warren told deputies that no one else was at home, but after hearing noise coming from what they believed was a bedroom, the deputies went to investigate, Larson said.
“When they opened the door, the room was filled with a white, dusty haze,” Larson told Murray. “There were two people hiding behind a bed.”
In addition to Fuentes and Coy, deputies found a folding table covered with a white powder that was later proved to be bath salts, a rolling pin, plastic dishes, rubber gloves, plastic bags, four empty cans of foot powder and respirators, Larson said. The prosecutor also said investigators had reviewed security tapes from a local discount store and identified Coy and Fuentes purchasing the items earlier in the day.
If Fuentes had been convicted of aggravated trafficking in synthetic hallucinogenic drugs, a Class A crime, she would have faced up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.
Trial dates for her co-defendants have not been set. They most likely will be set after a hearing in late September on a motion challenging the legality of the statute on which the charges filed against all four defendants are based. The motion was dismissed in Fuentes’ case Tuesday after her plea deal was accepted.