Six LR suspects charged in nation's largest-ever synthetic drug trafficking operation

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - A national synthetic drug crackdown leads to the arrest of five Arkansas men. The men were all based out of Little Rock and were among 150 people arrested in a nationwide drug bust operation.

"When you come in the people, they're nice and everything," said Charlotte Makolo. "I never thought, I'm so shocked, very shocked."

It's not the kind of incident you would expect at your local convenience store. The owner a part of the nation's largest-ever operation targeting synthetic drug trafficking. Wednesday one after the other, regular customers drove in to find the store closed.

The five men, some owners of convenience or retail stores in Little Rock, are under arrest for selling dangerous drugs that are marketed specifically to teens and young adults.

"They're extremely dangerous and often times more dangerous than the drugs they actually mimic," said Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

The drugs include K2, Spice and Bath salts and are shipped over to the United States from Southeast Asia and India. Side effects can be deadly with emergency room visits nearly tripling in the past three years from just over 11,000 to almost 30,000 last year.

"In the last year or so it's really exploded," said William J. Bryant, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock District Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). "There's been a significant increase nationwide in emergency admission over the use of these synthetic drugs."

But even though federal authorities were able to make more than 150 arrests in thirty-five states and five countries, Bryant admits there's still a lot of work to do both internationally and here in Arkansas.

"We'll do whatever is necessary to attack and dismantle these organizations," said Bryant.