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W.Va. bath salts suspect arrested in New Mexico

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. -- A West Virginia man who disappeared more than seven months ago as his drug trial was set to begin has been arrested in New Mexico.

Deputy marshals in New Mexico arrested John N. Skruck, 58, of Clarksburg, Saturday without incident in San Cristobal, N.M. Skruck was scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate in New Mexico on Monday, the U.S. Marshals Service told media outlets.

Federal authorities had been searching for Skruck since he failed to appear for trial in May 2013.

"Our investigators have worked tirelessly while chasing this elusive and sophisticated fugitive. Some manhunts can be very challenging, and the Skruck case was just that, a challenge," U.S. Marshal Gary Gaskins said in a news release. "We've had a jail cell reserved for Mr. Skruck since May, and it will soon be filled."

Federal prosecutors say Skruck ran the Hot Stuff Cool Things stores in Buckhannon and Clarksburg for owner Jeffrey Paglia before authorities raided and closed them in April 2012.

Authorities called the stores a major distributor of hallucinogenic bath salts in north-central West Virginia and noted that Paglia had planned to open a third store in Fairmont.

Prosecutors say the stores made about 5 percent of their money on clothing sales and 95 percent from illegal drugs, sometimes more than $20,000 a day.

Kruck faces 27 federal charges, including counts on distributing synthetic drugs, drug conspiracy and money laundering. A separate trial will be held on the money-laundering charges.

Paglia is serving more than seven years in prison after pleading guilty in November 2012 to one count of drug conspiracy and one count of structuring monetary transactions to evade reporting requirements on income from his stores. Two other former employees, James Phillips, 31, and Derrick Lee Calip, 41, both of Clarksburg, each pleaded guilty in November 2012 to a drug conspiracy charge. They completed their sentences in October 2013.

U.S. District Judge Irene Keeley issued an arrest warrant for Kruck after he did not show up for trial. In August 2013, she rescheduled the trial for September 2013.

On Sept. 9, 2013, Keeley postponed the trial until March because U.S. marshals had not yet found Skruck.


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