John O'Keefe, Reading store owner, pleads guilty in synthetic drug case

Counties, state police to share in seized profits of $1.5 million

READING, Pa. - A seller of synthetic drugs in Berks County is headed to jail, authorities said.

John O'Keefe pleaded guilty Thursday to selling bath salts and synthetic marijuana, officials said. O'Keefe, 47, was sentenced to 11 to 23 months in jail.

The case is one of the first of its kind in Pennsylvania since synthetic drugs became illegal in the state.

"Bath salts and the synthetic marijuana became illegal of August of 2011 as an outcry from the public because young kids were taking this. It was being marketed to young kids," said Theresa Johnson, first asst. district attorney. "The side effects are just detrimental to these kids."

O'Keefe was selling synthetic drugs out of Nirvana's Closet stores in Berks, Centre and Schuylkill counties until the stores were shut down in February 2012, investigators said.

Johnson said she hopes O'Keefe's sentence will send a message.

"And when we find out that store owners who are doing illegal activity, that is going to be our goal, to shut down the profits that they have made and take all those profits," Johnson said.

Authorities said $1.5 million in profits were confiscated from O'Keefe's businesses.

Berks, Centre and Schuylkill counties will receive $300,000 each of O'Keefe's confiscated earnings, and the remainder will go to the Pennsylvania State Police to assist in the war on drugs, officials said.

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Allentown, PA 18102




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