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Two college students from Macomb County face prison time after they pleaded guilty in federal court for their roles in an illegal mushroom smuggling operation, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Grand Rapids. Jerry Ray Bowman II, 22, of Clinton Township, and Zachary Konopka, 21, of Sterling Heights, entered their pleas last week before U.S. District Judge David W. McKeague in Lansing. Sentencing is scheduled for March 22.
U.S. Attorney Margaret Chiara said the two were involved in importing hallucinogenic mushrooms -- which have an effect similar to LSD -- from Europe. They were indicted by a federal grand jury in September.
Bowman, a former Fraser High School swim team member, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import the drugs, admitting that he set up a system through an e-mail account on the Internet and Western Union wire transfers to obtain the mushrooms from Europe. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
Konopka pleaded guilty to using wire transfers to import the drugs, admitting that he sent money to gain about 30 pounds of the mushrooms. He faces up to four years in prison.
An investigation was launched in June 2002 when U.S. Customs inspectors seized three packages from the Netherlands containing approximately six pounds of psilocybin mushrooms. The packages were addressed for shipment to Fraser, Portage and Cannonsburg, Mich.
Authorities believe at least 100 people in 26 other states were in business with the same shipping sources in Europe. Chiara said the federal probe into other suspects is continuing.
Federal officials said Bowman established an e-mail account as a point of contact for drug buyers looking to obtain mushrooms and distribute the drugs to others. They used the account from the fall of 2000 to July 2002, officials said.
The mushrooms, which are usually eaten or reduced to powder, induce hallucination and distorted psychological effects that generally wear off after six hours.