GAFFNEY , S.C. -- Three local people are behind bars following a large-scale synthetic drug operation executed on Wednesday by the Drug Enforcement Agency.
The DEA announced Wednesday the enforcement operation referred to as "Project Synergy", launched in December 2012, has netted more than 75 arrests and nearly $15 million in seized cash and assets.
On Wednesday, authorities executed more than 150 arrest warrants and nearly 400 search warrants across 35 states, 49 cities and five countries.
Locally, a Gaffney couple, Steven Petty, 42, and his wife Sirena Petty, 39, were arrested in the operation on an indictment charging them with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of UR-144 and XLR-11, both Schedule 1 controlled substances.
Also listed on the indictment were businesses owned by the Pettys: Carousel Music in Gaffney, South Carolina, and Smokers Edge in Shelby, North Carolina.
Officials say $1.4 million was seized from the couple and their businesses, of which $800,000 was in cash in the couple's home, the remainder was seized from nine different bank accounts.
Along with the funds, 20,000 packages of designer drugs were taken from the pair and their businesses.
Authorities say bond was set at $150,000 each.
The charges stem from several purchases of the controlled substance by an undercover DEA agent at Smokers Edge, according to the South Carolina U.S. Attorney's Office.
A third person, 27-year-old Jessica Weast, of Ellenboro, North Carolina, a former employee of the Pettys, was also listed in the indictment. Weast was arrested Wednesday in North Carolina.
Synthetic drugs, according to the DEA, are often marketed as incense, bath salts, jewelry cleaner or even plant food. Smokable herbal blends, marketed as though it provides a marijuana-like high, are also equally as dangerous, and even more potent than marijuana, officials say. K2 is a well-known example of the smokable synthetic drugs targeted in this DEA operation.
“These designer drugs are destructive, dangerous, and are destroying lives. DEA has been at the forefront of the battle against this trend and is targeting these new and emerging drugs with every scientific, legislative, and investigative tool at our disposal," said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.