Missouri Bath Salt Kingpin Richard Gross Gets 12.5 Years in Prison


  • image via Fox2
Pamela Tabatt's reign as the Bath Salt Queen of Missouri must have felt like quite the joyride. At her stores (Smoke Sensations: Nights of Rave in St. Louis County and South 94 Bait and Tackle in St. Charles County), the St. Peters woman sold more synthetic drugs than anyone in the eastern district of Missouri. And because her supplier was her very own son, Richard Gross, she likely got quite bargain. Federal prosecutors say Tabbatt, Gross and their co-conspirator Paul Berra accumulated an astonishing $6.5 million in profits.

But that's all over now. Yesterday, Gross, 36, was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison, the same sentence his mother received on July 20. Berra, 34, of Warrenton, Missouri, was sentenced to 34 months.

Gross's sentence, which follows guilty pleas for the three conspirators, brings the two-year-old case against them to its end. He was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge John A. Ross.

And here's what must be just as galling for their three-person drug syndicate: As part of their convictions, they agreed to hand over those $6.5 million in profits to the federal government.

Easy come, easy go, right?

The forfeiture agreement filed in federal court shows that the three turned over a remarkable amount of cash — nearly $100,000 — as well as money squirreled away in numerous accounts. They also turned over property in Wentzville, St. Peters, Troy, New Florence and Carrollton, Illinois, in addition to a 2008 Ford F450 and 2011 Chevy Traverse.

Tabatt's operation was hiding in plain sight after Missouri's 2011 ban on synthetic drugs, but a source tipped off Fox-2's Chris Hayes, which led to a series of investigations. She, her son and Berra were initially charged as a 28-person drug ring that raked in $23 million in total assets, but their little ring was later broke off and handled separately. 

People who use bath salts report side effects of hypertension, paranoia, anxiety and psychosis, according to the U. S. Attorney's Office. Synthetic marijuana also has dangerous side effects, including excessive heart rate, vomiting and seizures.

Though the drugs were intended to be smoked or snorted, the ring mislabeled the packages to "thwart drug-trafficking laws," according to the indictment. The packages said the drugs were "not for human consumption" and marketed the drugs as scouring powder, research chemicals, incense and novelty products.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com

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