LOS ANGELES – Three people are under arrest and a fourth is being sought for allegedly selling nitrous oxide for recreational drug use.
Court documents allege that nitrous oxide is being sold by stores across Southern California under the guise of being used for welding or car racing applications, but in fact is being distributing as a drug used by young people at rave-style parties.
Nitrous oxide is a dangerous prescription drug that is inhaled by recreational users, typically from balloons that are filled from large, compressed gang cylinders.
The drug can cause many significant and debilitating side effects, including, in extreme cases, death.
During the past year, several adolescents in the Los Angeles region have been killed in car accidents linked to the use of nitrous oxide, and acts of violence have been associated with the inhalation or sale of the drug, according to court documents.
Sales of nitrous oxide as a drug have dramatically increased in Southern California over the past five years, according to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
The prescription drug has legitimate uses, such as an anesthesia, but is used also for recreational purposes to create a temporary, euphoric “rush.”
At high and prolonged exposure levels, nitrous oxide is an asphyxiant that can cause death from a lack of oxygen.
The illegal use of nitrous oxide can also lead to spasms, convulsions and other health problems.
The defendants include, Edward Valencia, 51, of Lynwood, Federico Valencia, 58, of South Los Angeles, Rose Marie Cuellar, 20, of Florence-Graham and William Victor, 65, of Northridge, who is currently being sought by authorities;
In addition to the four arrests, authorities today executed federal search warrants at 17 businesses and on nine delivery vehicles.
The federal charge of misbranding a drug is a misdemeanor violation of the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that carries a statutory maximum penalty of one year in prison and up to a $100,000 fine.
Three other people were arrested during the sweeps on various drug charges.