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2 students allegedly helped smuggle illegal mushrooms
By:Chad Halcom, Macomb Daily Staff Writer September 13, 2003
Two west Michigan college students, formerly of Macomb County, could face up to 20 years in prison after a federal grand jury indicted them with conspiracy and other charges in an international illegal "mushroom" smuggling operation. Agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and local law enforcement arrested Jerry Ray Bowman, a recent graduate of Grand Valley State University and former Fraser High School swim team member, along with Zachary Jarrod Konopka, a Western Michigan University student and Sterling Heights resident, about two weeks ago.
They have since been arraigned on several charges at U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. If convicted as charged, they could face a maximum of 20 years in prison.
"I think it's possible that they knew each other from before" in their high school days in Macomb County, said an agent in the DEA's Grand Rapids' offices, who asked not to be identified. "It was apparent in the investigation there was a common link between them."
An investigation was launched in June 21, 2002, when Bowman was still an undergraduate student at Grand Valley and Konopka was a student at Western, after U.S. Customs Inspectors seized three packages from the Netherlands containing roughly six pounds of psilocybin mushrooms.
The mushrooms, which contain psilocybin and psilocin and act as a hallucinogen, were addressed for shipment to Fraser, Portage and Cannonsburg, Mich.
Now Konopka and Bowman are accused of conspiring with "others unnamed" to deliver and distribute the drug. At least 100 people in 26 states allegedly did business with the same shipping sources in Europe, and it's unclear if others in this country or abroad may be charged soon.
"It depends. But that's a possibility we're looking at," said John Bruha, an assistant U.S. Attorney in western Michigan assigned to the case. "The investigation is still continuing at this point."
Officials allege that Bowman had established an e-mail account as a point of contact for drug buyers looking to obtain mushrooms. From the fall of 2000 until July 2002, Bowman and Konopka allegedly used e-mail accounts to order the drug, which they would then receive in the United States and distribute to consumers as "middlemen."
The mushrooms, generally eaten or reduced to powder, induce hallucination and distorted psychological effects that generally wear off within six hours - a less potent "trip" or experience than taking LSD.
Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges and await the discovery process and other pretrial matters in court. Bowman has graduated from Grand Valley since the investigation began, but officials believe Konopka is still a student at Western.