Death of a Boca Teen Launches an Investigation into NBOMe, an LSD-Like Synthetic Drug

Death of a Boca Teen Launches an Investigation into NBOMe, an LSD-Like Synthetic Drug
Illustration by Alvaro Diaz-Rubio

Joseph Kuhn's head was a madhouse, and all he wanted was a becalming glimpse of the ocean. The bad economy had killed his business first, then finished off his savings; now, he was facing foreclosure. The only thing that could douse his nerves was a daily trip to the beach. So on Thursday, June 13, 2013, the athletic 59-year-old left his place on Ocean Boulevard, crossed two lanes of sizzling blacktop, and headed for the sand. Being the Good Samaritan in a rescue situation was not even on his mind.

Near 6:30 p.m. on the shore in Boca Raton, just north of the Deerfield Beach pier, two kids walked past -- a short teenaged boy topped with a mop of dark hair and diamond stud in his left ear, and a mousy-looking girl in glasses. Something in the boy's face didn't look right, Kuhn thought. A moment later, like a linebacker aiming for a ball carrier, the boy sprinted into a thicket of sea grapes nestled against the pool area of the nearest condo building. Then Kuhn heard a girl scream.

Fifteen-year-old Zachary Denaro was lying face up in the sand when Kuhn got there. Vomit clogged his mouth. Kuhn rolled him over, then roped his arms around the boy's bare chest to prop him in sitting position. Kuhn pumped his arms against Zach, a Heimlich-esque maneuver to get the lungs working. "He's turning blue," the girl said. The boy began thrashing so wildly that Kuhn's muscles hurt all week from holding him. The ambulance was supposedly on its way.

"They took forever to get there," Kuhn remembers today. "In the meantime, there were 30 people sitting around there watching. Nobody offered to help. Some woman standing right on the beach was filming us on an iPhone."

Across town, Donna Denaro couldn't understand why she couldn't get her son on the phone. Hours earlier, she had dropped off Zach and his twin brother so they could spend a few lazy summertime hours with friends near the beach. Thirty minutes prior, she had picked up the brother. But now her calls weren't going through. Donna, a short, sun-bronzed woman with a sharp Bronx accent, rang up one of Zach's female friends. Instead of the familiar voice, another girl clicked on. "He's overdosing on the beach," the girl said.

25i-NBOMe, also known as NBOMe, is a relatively new research chemical that users liken to LSD.

By the time Donna rushed to the beach, Zach was in the back of an ambulance, wired to machines that were keeping him alive. The teen's mom hopped into the passenger seat. She fired calls to more of Zach's friends, trying to find out what he'd taken. Finally, at the hospital, she got a call from a kid New Times is identifying only as K.R., also 15 years old, who explained in a calm voice that her son had taken something called "25I." It would be out of his system in 12 hours, the teen assured her. The ER doctors Googled the term to find out what it was.

But Zach never woke. He died two days later.

The story of a 15-year-old possibly overdosing in a tony beach burg known for Botox and BMWs was tragic enough. But authorities were alarmed by what he might have taken. 25I-NBOMe, also known as NBOMe, is a relatively new research chemical that users liken to LSD. In the past few years, the drug has left a trail of young bodies across the country, creating a new challenge for law enforcement and politicians fighting the incoming tide of synthetic drugs.

Sure enough, Zach Denaro's death launched a multi-agency investigation. But instead of a sophisticated net of pushers, the trail led to a bumbling, bizarre, and ultimately sad cast of characters who could have been bit players in a Coen brothers movie: a drug dealer who asked an undercover cop for rides; young thugs pistol-whipping a former kindergarten classmate; and a 58-year-old housewife selling psychedelics to stay financially afloat.

Now, however, more than a year after the death, with the criminal investigation finished, arrests made, and sentences handed out, Zach Denaro's family still has questions about precisely what happened on the beach, and they can't understand why the teenagers involved seem to have skirted the law.

"I have no closure," Donna says. "I just want to know what happened."


In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, legislation that classified narcotics into five "schedules." But rogue chemists smart enough to understand molecular structure spotted a loophole.

With a little tweaking, anyone with a basic understanding of chemistry could take a banned drug, add or subtract a molecule -- thus technically transforming it into a slightly different, nonbanned substance -- and duck the law. These variations are called "analogs." The analog may or may not have the same effect as the original.

"So if amphetamine was listed by the act, you can add a methyl to the structure and it's methamphetamine -- it's not scheduled anymore," explains Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein, medical director at the Florida Poison Control Center in Miami. "You can design your own drugs depending on what you substitute around the molecule." Making an analog may not take much, Bernstein says: test tubes and beakers, a Bunsen burner for heat.

Hence for the past 40 years, there's been what Bernstein calls a "constant cat-and-mouse game with law enforcement and the drug community," with the latter always a molecular swap or two ahead of regulation. "It's a challenge for clinicians like myself to stay on top of it."

What people call NBOMe is one of the newer test-tube iterations to hit the underground. Users call it "n-bomb" or "smiles." In official chemist lingo, the substance has three known variations: 25I-NBOMe (which has an iodine molecule attached), 25C-NBOMe (which has an extra chlorine molecule), or 25B-NBOMe (an extra bromine). Users sometimes refer to the chemicals as 25I, 25C, and 25B for short.

 

Friends say that when 15­-year­-old Zachary Denaro began attending West Boca High, he fell in with a crew of kids who experimented with drugs.
Friends say that when 15­-year­-old Zachary Denaro began attending West Boca High, he fell in with a crew of kids who experimented with drugs.

NBOMe's light up the same serotonin receptors in the central nervous system as LSD, but they are actually chemical analogs of a different family, phenethylamine psychedelics. A precursor to NBOMe, called 2C-I, first appeared in the 1970s -- one of 200 or so compounds cooked up by rogue Dow Chemical scientist and head-shop hero Alexander Shulgin, who became famous for evangelizing the mind-expanding properties of psychedelics. In 2003, a chemist at the Free University of Berlin grafted some new bits to the 2C's molecular structure, creating the NBOMe family. He intended the substance to be used for research on the nervous systems of animals.

"Most of these drugs and chemicals are ordered online and come mostly from China."

"It shares some of the properties with amphetamines," explains Bernstein. "It also shares some of the properties of the more hallucinogenic drugs."

No studies have ever been conducted on NBOMe use in humans. But according to Erowid, an online Wikipedia for psychedelics, NBOMe first began being sold for recreational use around 2010. Sale of the substance picked up on Silk Road, a website where people anonymously bought and sold drugs that was accessible only through special search engines. Although the FBI shut down the site in October 2013, NBOMe sales are still available through cloud, not street corner, transactions. "Most of these drugs and chemicals are ordered online and come mostly from China," says Mia Ro, spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration's Miami field office.

NBOMe is usually taken orally, either as a powder or on blotter paper. First-person reports posted online describe the substance as having a bitter taste that numbs the tongue. Although similar to 2C, NBOMe is 16 times more powerful than its parent drug, according to a DEA fact sheet.

Potency is an issue because NBOMe is being passed off more and more as either its chemical cousin 2C or LSD. The DEA says that between March 2012 and August 2013, 19 Americans between the ages of 15 to 29 died after ingesting NBOMe. Many victims apparently had no idea what they were taking.

"It's really tough to say for sure what we see, because often people don't know what they're buying," Bernstein explains. "There is a lack of quality control out on the street."

In 2012, 21-year-old Clayton Otwell collapsed in a seizure at the Voodoo Festival in City Park, Louisiana. He died three days later. Friends told police he'd accepted what he thought was LSD from a fellow concertgoer. Otwell had actually taken NBOMe, police determined.

In March 2014, four Dallas area teens got together to take LSD. After one of the kids -- 15-year-old Montana Brown -- died following the incident, investigators determined that the substance he had taken was actually NBOMe.

Only two months later, 17-year-old Tara Fitzgerald died hours after supposedly dropping acid with friends in the Twin Cities suburbs. Once again, police realized she'd swallowed NBOMe. Five teens who'd handled the drug before it got to Fitzgerald were eventually charged with third-degree murder in a case that is still pending.

Perhaps because of the state's history with synthetic marijuana and bath salts, Florida was actually ahead of the national curve in banning NBOMe. Although the 1986 Federal Analog Act outlawed analogs of illicit drugs, the statute was too vague to lead to actual prosecutions. As a result, states were left to ban each new chemical as it popped up on the market. This reached a head between 2010 and 2013, when the Sunshine State was soaked with products like Mr. Nice Guy and K2 -- "herbal incenses" that were generally tobacco products coated with chemicals meant to mimic marijuana -- as well as bath salts, powders that produced a stimulating effect like cocaine.

Within weeks of taking office in January 2011, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi issued an emergency rule outlawing six substances used in bath salts. In 2012, she worked with the Legislature to pass laws banning 92 synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic stimulants. By the end of the year, however, chemists had already introduced products with new chemicals into the market. A November 2012 Florida Department of Law Enforcement briefing detailed new synthetics on the street, as well as synthetic phenethylamines.

"Our office relies on information from law enforcement officers and medical experts when making determinations about which compounds to emergency-schedule," explains Whitney Ray, a spokesman with the State Attorney General's Office.

In December 2012, Bondi issued another emergency rule banning 22 new chemicals, including 25I-NBOMe. It would take the DEA almost a year before it put the substance on an emergency ban for two years. In June 2014, the Florida legislation went into effect that permanently banned both the 25I and 25B versions of NBOMe. All told, Bondi has banned 131 chemicals while she's been in office

Stiffening the law is one thing; actual prosecution is another. Ray says the AG's office does not have a way to track how many prosecutions have come from the substance bans. State attorneys offices in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach also lack stats on the number of prosecutions related to NBOMe. But according to Mike Edmondson of the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office, "we're seeing more of it."

The DEA's Miami office says it's launched only two local investigations into NBOMe rings, including the case surrounding Zach Denaro's death.


Zach Denaro "was like everybody's little brother," says one longtime friend and classmate, who asked not to be named.

The Denaros were originally from New York City, where Zachary's dad was a police officer for 20 years. They moved to Boca Raton to be close to family when Zach was 3.

His twin brother, Dylan, was touched with autism. They were rarely apart. Zach did all the talking. Being spokesman for two seemed to double his charisma and confidence. "When you saw him, you would think he was the happiest kid," the same friend explains. "There was not one person who had a problem with him."

 

Attorney General Pam Bondi has banned 131 synthetic substances since taking office in 2011.
Attorney General Pam Bondi has banned 131 synthetic substances since taking office in 2011.

Zach was OK on a skateboard, but no one could touch him when they fired up the Xbox with Halo or Call of Duty. He also had a goofy prankster streak, squeezing laughs out of everything from smacking a sugar cookie against his brother's head till it stuck to running through the mall in a banana costume. "He was like a normal teenager," explains another friend. "He partied a little, smoked a little weed, but that was just part of life."

Zach transferred from Olympia Heights High School to the gifted program at West Boca High in 2012. But once there, according to friends, his group grew to include "grimy" and "shady" kids whose fascination with substances went beyond the occasional beer and bong rips. "Not like heroin or coke," another friend explains. "More like acid, shrooms, and various research chemicals that mimic those."

The Facebook pages and Instagram accounts of some of Zach's friends -- including the kids he was with on the day he died -- are splashed with shots of bongs, blunts, rolls of $20 bills spread on a table, and fistfuls of weed. Pictures show baggies of what posters claim are ketamine and Molly, elaborately designed blotter paper, even white lines cut up next to a rolled-up bill.

Facebook shows exchanges among skinny white kids in braces calling each other "nigga" and shoutouts of PLUR, which stands for "peace, love, unity, respect" -- lingo from drug-soaked electronic dance music circles. Everywhere, there are pictures of kids grinning over bongs or mugging at EDM shows at Club Cinema, a Pompano Beach club infamous for rowdy rave parties. In these social media exchanges, on a typical Friday or Saturday night, one kid might announce his or her parents were gone for the weekend. Hmu for a getty at the open crib.

In the middle of the scene was 15-year-old K.R., a whippet-thin kid who showed no compunction at pasting Facebook with pics of himself stream-whistling lungfuls of smoke in parked cars or gawking in a bathroom mirror in a shirt that reads "Smoke Meth & Hail Satan." According to interviews with multiple friends, Zach and K.R. had a past. Old Facebook posts point to bad blood -- "I just don't fucking like you," K.R. posted once on Zach's wall in 2012 -- but the two hung out in the same circles, particularly when drugs were involved.

Old Facebook conversations discovered by his mother after his death show Zach talking with friends about trying tabs (whether NBOMe or LSD isn't clear). "Just one will met ur fuckkinng face off," he wrote before his death. He seemed to know he was experimenting with something different than LSD: "it aint acid; its like shyneticc xanax on tabs."

On the day of his death, Zach texted K.R.: "Have any acid. Lsd 25i 25b idc" [I don't care].

"Yes I doo," he responded.

"Ima need some deff today," Zach answered.

"Ok ill call you in a bit."

Boca kids say NBOMe iterations are hardly rare. "It's more common to get research chemicals or bullshit drugs now than it is to get pure LSD," says one Boca teen.

"It's everywhere, man," says another. "The kids get it off line. You can get a sheet of it for like $25."


When Boca Raton Police began quizzing the kids who'd been on the beach with Zach, they initially caught lies from all directions. But eventually the girls broke down in teary confessions. As police records indicate, investigators pieced together the different accounts, corroborated by Facebook posts and texts, into an outline of what happened:

On June 13, one girl whose mother was out of town invited friends to her beachfront apartment on Ocean Boulevard. Her mother's boyfriend was ostensibly supervising but had gone out to watch a basketball game. Two girlfriends came over, as did Zach and his brother, plus a third teenaged boy. At some point, Zach's brother left, and the other kids invited K.R. According to one of the girls, Zach had mentioned "some kind of acid that he wanted to try."

Zach broke free, yelled "please don't kill me," and "then collapsed on the sand and began to foam from the mouth."

K.R. showed up with a black bag. Zachary and the other boy bought between one and three tabs each. The girls "purchased a total of 12 tabs for $40 from [K.R.]," a detective summarized. One of the girls "denied taking the tabs and she only bought them because she likes Zachary a lot and she wanted him to think she was cool." After seeing the effect the drugs would have on Zach, she later flushed hers down the toilet.

Zach and the other boy took the drugs, the teens all said. The group went outside and walked on the beach, but before long, Zachary "began to hallucinate and make statements that everyone was trying to rob him," police records say. He took off his shirt and began to toss items from his pockets. He almost ran into traffic on A1A. He became aggressive and punched his one male friend in the face, then K.R. K.R. then "punched Zachary back and placed him in a 'choke hold.' " K.R. "kneed him in the head," one girl stated.

Zach broke free, yelled "please don't kill me," and "then collapsed on the sand and began to foam from the mouth." One of the girls stayed with him as Kuhn, the bystander, arrived to offer help.

Amid Zach's freak-out, both K.R. and the other boy decided to split. The one boy was picked up by friends. K.R. changed out of his wet sandy clothes. Around 8 p.m., he put out an SOS on Facebook: "***WHO CAN PICK ME UP FROM DEERFIELD***." He had "gas and goodies" in exchange for a ride.

Two days later, at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, a nurse told police that "Zachary had no brain function" and "no kidney function." That night, June 15, his parents decided that he be taken off life support.

 

Police say Lisa Russo (left) and Darren Yarnall arranged the sale of $2,400 worth of 25I-NBOMe.
Police say Lisa Russo (left) and Darren Yarnall arranged the sale of $2,400 worth of 25I-NBOMe.

Police reports note that when investigators first called K.R. on the day of Zach's death, a girl answered his phone, explaining K.R. was "too high" before clicking off. When the teen sat down for an interview later that day accompanied by his mother, "[K.R.] stated that he was against getting high," an officer noted in the report. "[K.R.] is studying Bio Chemistry in school and states that he is learning how acid is made. He had conversations with his mother about the molecular structure of the drug and he is aware that there is NBOMe 25I, 25B, and 25C."

In that conversation, he admitted to having sold drugs to Zach and to having had a physical altercation with him on the beach. But he was just trying to calm his hallucinating friend, he said.

On June 17, police with a search warrant charged into the Pompano Beach apartment K.R. shared with his mother. There on the boy's bedroom wall was a gash of red paint and, in erratic street tagger script: "RIP Zach D. forever in memory." Also found: metal and glass pipes, a tightly rolled-up $50, used baggies, scrunched-up foil, and 18 blue tabs that later tested as 25B-NBOMe.

Photos collected from his apartment showed the teen had been in possession of not only NBOMe but marijuana and prescription pills. Police also found screen shots of the "Silk Road" website, showing an order for 250 NBOMe blotters and 50 MDMA pills. Police even found a video showing the teen getting the shipment of NBOMe in the mail, hidden in a greeting card.

"Zachary had no brain function" and "no kidney function."

But K.R. wasn't arrested. Instead, according to an affidavit later filed in court, the teen gave a statement to detectives identifying the dealer from whom he'd purchased the NBOMe: Justin Bowman.

If the name didn't immediately ping on law enforcement's radar, the address might have.

In February 2013, a sheriff's deputy and a state investigator showed up at a house on Cloud Lake Circle north of Yamato Road after someone lodged a complaint with Florida Department of Children and Families alleging that 16-year-olds were selling drugs out of the house with no supervision. One of the kids was suicidal, the anonymous complaint said, and had torn up the garage after hallucinating that someone was hiding there. The deputy's report doesn't list the names of the resident minors but notes the "home was very very dirty and smelled," with used dishes and empty beer cans everywhere. "Some people might look at this as some type of hoarding," the deputy wrote. But the minor's mother, also unnamed, was at home, and the investigators found no evidence of drug sales.

K.R. told police that Bowman and friends allegedly sold drugs out of this house -- "cocaine, NBOMe, Mushrooms, Ketamine, Marijuana" as well as "Xanax and Oxycodone and PCP." K.R. also told police there were multiple guns on the property.

As June slumped into July, records show the DEA and PBSO were both teasing out threads to unravel the supply line of NBOMe. A confidential source -- it's unclear whether this was K.R. or another person -- introduced an undercover DEA agent to one of the residents of the Cloud Lake house: 19-year-old Darren Yarnall, a high school dropout skateboarder with a swoop of black emo hair. Till then, he'd been picked up only for marijuana possession.

At a meeting at the Cloud Lake Circle house on July 18, Yarnall said he could get a sheet of NBOMe -- 100 hits -- for $350 from his source. Two days later, the teen texted the agent, announcing he was ready to go to his source for the drugs. Because he didn't have a car, the teen invited the buyer to come along.

"ill just take you to re up with me so it's not sketchy going to her house twice I just wanna make sure you're 100 % coming so I'm not stuck out here lol," he texted.

"Yeah for sure I need that today so I gotchu," the agent replied.

On July 19, Yarnall, in a black hoodie and jeans, jumped into the passenger seat of the agent's car at a Bank of America parking lot in Lake Worth. They steered north into the Smith Farms subdivision. After taking a handful of $50 bills from the agent, Yarnall walked to the front door.

Eventually, a squat, heavyset woman edging into her late 50s emerged to walk her dog, her scraggly brown hair bundled in a pink headband. Yarnall ran over. When he came back to the car, he had the drugs.

The undercover agent noted the address and soon identified the woman as Lisa Russo. Born and raised in the Bronx, Russo had moved down to Florida in 1976 and worked as a licensed social worker at a mental health facility in Fort Lauderdale for nearly a decade. She was married in 1992, divorced in 2005. She'd never been in trouble with police before.

A day later, the agent placed a follow-up order with Yarnall: this time for 1,000 tabs for $2,400. Yarnall replied that his source would have to order the stuff. It would take five business days to get, he promised.

That second deal had not yet transpired when, on July 26, Yarnall was smoking a cigarette in the backyard of the Cloud Lake house and two men appeared and began pistol-whipping him. "This is a real gun, motherfucker!" one screamed, demanding, "Where are the tabs?" Inside, three additional guys were knocking over furniture and ripping through drawers. To his surprise, he knew two of them -- one he'd known since kindergarten; the other he was friends with on Facebook, "Ryan Rachet Azz." They took Yarnall's iPhone, $183 in cash, his license, and a small baggie containing tabs of 25B. Police would eventually arrest four people for the attack.

On August 15, deputies were back at the property to arrest Justin Bowman. According to the police report, he'd threatened his mother, Kim, "because she refused to give him money to buy pills and get high." He smashed up the house, pushed his mother, then was out the door, promising to come back "to shoot up the house with his friends."

 

Apparently undeterred by the beating he'd just caught, on August 22, Yarnall beamed a text to the undercover agent to complete their second deal. "[I]t came, whenever you're ready buddy," he wrote. "[W]e got it all don't worry."

The next day, they agreed to meet at a Walgreens on Congress Avenue. Seven law enforcement officers were present when Yarnall showed at 3:10 p.m. in black jeans and a hoodie. The police immediately took him into custody. Yarnall agreed to cooperate. At 4 p.m., he called Russo. Could she meet him at Walgreens?

Forty-five minutes later, Russo's gold four-door Toyota motored into the parking lot. Two police officers quickly advanced on her car. When the driver cracked the side window, strong-smelling weed clouds drifted out. Search warrant in hand, the officers found a USPS mailing envelope. Inside were three multicolored sheets of perforated tabs.

In interviews with police, Russo explained that she was pushed into drug dealing. She was out of work and not collecting enough money from unemployment. She told investigators she thought NBOMe was a legal form of acid, which she had dabbled in when she was younger. She bought the drugs on Silk Road, which she first learned of through her son. Russo explained that her teenager had a substance-abuse problem and had been using the site to supply his habit before going into rehab two months earlier.

"She was going through a tremendous financial hardship," explains her attorney, Jason Kriess. "Her home life was hard also."

Russo and Yarnall were charged with two others -- Zach Triana, 21, and Pedro Gomez, 18, both of whom had separately set up NBOMe sales with Russo -- for felony conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance and felony sale/distribution of a controlled substance. "Lisa Russo was determined to be a main source of supply for the NBOMe being distributed throughout Palm Beach County," the arrest affidavit filed in court proclaimed.


At Zach Denaro's memorial service, dozens of kids streamed past his coffin. To the horror of the family, someone placed a bag of weed in the casket. Online, Zach's life has also morphed grotesquely beyond its own tragedy. "RIP Zach" has become a shorthand nod among drug users.

"I see so many people put it on their Instagrams, on their [Facebook] profiles, but a lot of these people didn't know him," says one friend. "It's one thing to pay your respects; it's another thing to pretend like you know him."

Donna Denaro is constantly bubbling over with a mix of emotions -- heartbreak, confusion, and anger. Although authorities, in charging documents, suggested a link running from Zach through K.R. to the Boca house and finally to Russo, the variations in the NBOMe analogs and the difficulty in testing certain forms of it have left unanswered questions. Those who were charged with NBOMe-related offenses all got light sentences. No one has faced charges connected to Zach's death.

"My kid is still known as the kid who ­overdosed on 25I," Donna says, but a definitive cause of death is still elusive. A toxicology screening detected only marijuana in his system. The medical examiner noted evidence that Zach had been physically restrained on the beach but found no "lethal trauma." So his cause of death was ruled undetermined.

The version of NBOMe found in K.R.'s apartment tested as 25B, but the DEA, Food and Drug Administration, and the FBI all reported that there's no method to test for 25B-NBOMe in a body. 25I-NBOMe, yes; but not 25B.

"Based on the lack of evidence of 25B-NBOMe in" Zach's corpse, as well as the death being ruled undetermined, there is "not sufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges" against anyone in Zach's death, investigators concluded.

Law enforcement officials seem to have thought they'd catch a bigger fish. Instead of giving the case to the local state attorney, the Attorney General's Office assigned a statewide prosecutor. Whitney Ray admits that Pam Bondi's team originally thought the arrests would spiral into multiple jurisdictions, not just four people in a single county.

"They paint a picture of this narcotics distribution ring," Russo's defense lawyer Kriess says. "These were a bunch of kids and drug users. This was such a low-level and unsophisticated group of drug users that codefendant Yarnall didn't even have a means of transportation." Also K.R. had 25B, while Russo was caught in possession of 25I. Given the discrepancy, cops are wrong in trying to link the cases, Kriess says. "Based upon our investigation, there was absolutely no link."

Of the four people charged with NBOMe offenses: Zachary Triana (who did not return calls for comment) pleaded guilty and was given 36 months' probation. Darren Yarnall (who hung up when reached by a reporter) also pleaded guilty and was given four years' probation. Pedro Gomez failed to show up for a court date, and there is currently a warrant for his arrest. In fact, the most serious charge aimed at each of the four -- conspiracy to traffic, a first-degree felony with a mandatory minimum of three years in jail -- was ultimately dropped for each defendant. Only Russo was handed jail time -- six months in Palm Beach County jail followed by 30 months of probation.

The Russo bust couldn't feel more hollow for the Denaros. Despite the camera-ready optics of a suburban drug ring swept off the streets, his mother still can't stop wondering whether her son died from getting hit on the beach that day or whether he even took any drugs.

And, as multiple Boca kids say, NBOMe is still easily available on illicit websites that have swooped in to fill the gap left by Silk Road.

Regardless, Bondi has touted her tough actions in her bid for reelection. "As attorney general," she announced in a recent television spot, "I banned synthetic forms of heroin and acid that are poisoning our kids."

Despite being named in the document, Justin Bowman was never charged in the distribution of NBOMe. In March 2014, he was arrested for choking his ex-girlfriend. He couldn't be reached for comment. A call to his mother was also not returned.

Attempts to speak with K.R. were unsuccessful. His mother did not return a call for comment. There is no evidence the teen has been charged (although misdemeanor juvenile charges may be shielded from public records).

In October 2013, after the threat of arrest seemed to have passed him by, K.R. bragged on Facebook: "Not on probation and never got arrested all you angry boca jits can smd [suck my dick] lmfao."

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