Drug-laced candies prompt warning from Florida authorities

A Bradenton man is accused of planning to distribute candy laced with meth and a Flakka-like drug was discovered in sour candy in Miami-Dade County.

Lauren Mayk - BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) - Two types of drug-laced candy have surfaced in two Florida counties, prompting a warning from authorities.  A Bradenton man is accused of planning to distribute candy laced with meth. The United States Attorney's Office in Tampa says the candy was packaged as retail candy. Jesus Casteyano, 53, who also goes by the name of Jesus Castellano, was arrested after allegedly agreeing to distribute 500 grams or more of the meth-laced candy. Evidence photos show images of the candy in retail packaging.

The second case involved a Flakka-like drug that was laced in candy that resembles Sour Patch Kids candy. The candy prompted a community safety alert from the Miami-Dade Police Department. Detectives seized two ziploc bags of the individually wrapped candy during an investigation. Police described the candy as extremely sticky and about .5 inch by 1.5 inches in size. Analysis of the candy confirmed the presence of the synthetic drug ethylone, which is a controlled substance that is similar to the dangerous drug FLAKKA. Miami-Dade police say this was the first case in which candy contained a substance identified as a synthetic drug.

Law enforcement in Florida are finding drugs that look like candy, a new trend that passes off dangerous drugs as something else. "This is the first time I've heard of it," said Dr. Alfred Aleguas, managing director of the Poison Information Center in Tampa. Aleguas called the trend "really scary" for several reasons, including the potential for the colorful items to attract children.

"Why wouldn't a child ingest something like that if it's on the table?" he said. Miami-Dade Police put out a "Community Safety Alert" after seizing plastic bags filled with pieces of something that looked like gummy candy (a photo compared them to candy resembling Sour Patch Kids) but contained a synthetic drug called ethylone, similar to the drug FLAKKA and also known as bath salts.

In Manatee County, federal agents found brightly colored packages of that looked like bags of candy. However, authorities say methamphetamine was detected inside. A Bradenton man was charged with "conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and distribution of 500 grams or more of methamphetamine," according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida. News Channel 8 showed parents and their children pictures of the drugs disguised as candy, to see whether they could tell the difference.

"Super scary," said Andrea DeCalo, whose son Christian loves candy. "We're going to have to put down some rules that we don't take candy from anyone but your family." Joycelyn Thomas said she has talked about the issue after being aware of candy-like drug trends when her family lived in Chicago. "If you didn't get it from your parents - don't take it from somebody," Thomas said.

RELATED: What you need to know about the dangerous drug Flakka

In April, police in Fort Lauderdale warned the public about the dangers of Flakka after a man under the influence of the drug suffered from hallucinations and exhibited "superhuman strength" while trying to break into a store. Flakka can take the form of a white or pink crystal that can be eaten, snorted, injected or vaporized in an e-cigarette or similar device. In addition to putting people in a state of delirium, Flakka can also raise body temperature dangerously and can cause kidney damage or failure.

Lawmakers in Washington, DC are considering a bill called the Protecting Kids from Candy Flavored Drugs Act of 2015 which amends the Controlled Substances Act to prohibit people from manufacturing, possessing or selling a drug that is in packaging made to look like candy or a beverage. The act also imposes tougher penalties for violations.

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