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Stephen J. Lee, Forum News Service, Published March 18 2014

15th defendant in deadly multistate synthetic drug case takes plea deal

FARGO - The last of 15 people charged in a multistate synthetic drug operation blamed for killing two teens in 2012 has reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

John Robert Polinski of Texas was scheduled to stand trial Tuesday in federal court in Fargo but announced he was ready to plead guilty. Like the other 14, Polinski took a deal rather than risk trial on charges that could mean life in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

Polinksi’s change-of-plea hearing is slated for April 2, Chris Myers, first assistant U.S. attorney who has prosecuted the 15 over the past 18 months, announced Tuesday.

Polinski worked in Houston with Charles Carlton, who obtained drugs from Asia and Europe and sold them throughout the United States, including to Andrew Spofford in Grand Forks, according to Myers.

Spofford mixed and packaged the drugs, primarily synthetic hallucinogens that mimic the highs of LSD, methamphetamine, mushrooms and ecstasy and distributed them to several in the Grand Forks area.

In the same week in June 2012, Christian Bjerk, 18, in Grand Forks and Elijah Stai, 17, in East Grand Forks, Minn., died quickly after ingesting hallucinogens obtained from Spofford. Several young teens also were hospitalized during that time after ingesting the drugs, Myers has said in court.

Spofford, sentenced earlier this month to 17.5 years in prison, received the longest sentence so far.

Carlton and Casey Rosen have pleaded guilty and are scheduled for sentencing later this spring. The other 11 are serving sentences ranging from probation to 12 years.