The Drug Enforcement Administration, and other federal agencies are serving hundreds of search and arrest warrants across the U.S. in a months-long crackdown on those who make and distribute synthetic designer drugs.
DEA officials say agents are serving 150 arrest warrants and 375 search warrants, and seizing bank accounts as part of the 7-month investigation. Agents say the drugs resulted in "tens of millions of dollars" in profits.
In earlier raids, drug agents arrested 76 people and served 57 search warrants. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have previously seized more than 1,000 kilograms of drugs used in synthetic marijuana, bath salts and other substances that can mimic cocaine, LSD and other drugs.
"Shutting down businesses that traffic in these drugs, and attacking their operations worldwide is a priority for DEA and our law enforcement partners," said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart
Designer synthetic drugs are often marketed as herbal incense, bath salts, jewelry cleaner or plant food, and have caused significant abuse, addiction, overdoses and emergency room visits.
Synthetic drugs have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for human consumption or for medical use, and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process.
"The criminals behind the importation, distribution and selling of these drugs have scant regard for human life in their reckless pursuit of illicit profits," said Traci Lembke, HSI deputy assistant director of Investigative Programs.
"For criminal groups seeking to profit through the sale of illegal narcotics, the message is clear: we know how you operate; we know where you hide; and we will not stop until we bring you to justice," Lembke said.
Project Synergy was coordinated by DEA's Special Operations Division, working with the DEA Office of Diversion Control, and included cases led by DEA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, FBI and IRS.
In addition, law enforcement in Australia, Barbados, Panama and Canada participated, as well as countless state and local law enforcement members.
Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation) contributed to this report.