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CNN Special Report: Deadly High

Aired January 3, 2015 - 22:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think he's breathing at all there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, he's dead. We need somebody now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He started to foam at the mouth, convulsing uncontrollably.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the only time we reach out to a school system to the university and say "Hey, there's this danger on the street".

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN HOST: Deadly new drugs on America's streets.

JUSTIN RIPPENTROP, COUSIN OF ELIJAH: It was nothing like that anything I had before. The trees looked like cauliflowers, like dancing around.

GRIFFIN: Design to evade the law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once they alter that chemical, it's no longer control substance.

GRIFFIN: And to maximize profit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We process, you know, 40 to $50,000 a month on credit card.

GRIFFIN: Imported into the U.S. by mail and sold online.

CHRISTOPHER MYERS, PROSECUTOR: He set up a large scale drug trafficking organization by using the computer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That to me is scary. This stuff is not safe just because you can order on the internet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most people still don't know they're. They'll kill your kids.

GRIFFIN: Tonight the new drug threat, a Deadly High.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a kid lying on the sidewalk. He looks like he's been beat up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, there's a guy laying face down, look like was passed out, but no shoes on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the officers arrive they found Mr. Bjerk lying face down on the sidewalk. They found the other victim. It was reported that he was sitting on the grass yelling at the parking car acting inquiringly.

GRIFFIN: On the morning of June 11 2012 police in Grand Forks North Dakota were facing a new threat on the city streets.

And then you found this other guy on the park?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was naked, yeah.

GRIFFIN: The naked teenager and the young man yelling at the car would live. But police already knew the young man lying face down on the sidewalk was dead. And in the small city of Grand Forks they also knew who he was.

KEITH BJERK, CHRISTIAN'S FATHER: He tear up and I didn't know what's going on. I said "What's the matter?" He said it's Christian and I said "What?" and he said "His deceased." And he just (inaudible) his head. And, you know, those moment you just don't forget him.

GRIFFIN: Christian Bjerk was a star high school football player. Police officer who came to notify his parents Keith and Debbie had been Christian's youth football coach.

K. BJERK: It never occurred to me that would be anything like this and he said -- then he told me we don't know him. We just finally said "Well, what? What do you mean?" I said, "Did somebody kill him?" And looked at me and we don't know Keith, I can't tell you anything.

GRIFFIN: Keith Bjerk last saw his son just the night before June 10th 2012. It was 11:00 at night.

DEBBIE BJERK, CHRISTIAN'S MOTHER: He was going to run out to a gas station, he said, "I'll be right back." I said, "OK, I'll see you in the morning son." And I gave him a hug and kiss goodnight.

K. BJERK: I was watching TV in a couch and pick me up shake me like that and said "Love you dad I'll be right back".

GRIFFIN: His parents would later learn at the gas station Christian run into a friend and ended up going to house party. His body would be found a short distance away.

What kill this healthy 18 year old was mystery it was about to strike the small Midwest community again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need an ambulance. We have a kid here who's not breading.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, where's the house?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's, East Grand Forks. I don't think he's breathing at all there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, he's dead. We need somebody now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, can you guys start CPR with him?

MELISSA KATZ, ELIJAH'S MOTHER: It was three days before Elijah birthday.

GRIFFIN: He would be on 18?

KATZ: Yeah. He wanted to go to Grand Forks to see his cousin and spent time there with Justin.

GRIFFIN: Melissa Katz son Elijah Stai was in Grand Forks to celebrate an upcoming birthday. He was with his foster brother Justin Rippentrop.

GRIFFIN: And what were you planning that weekend?

RIPPENTROP: Not a whole lot, just hang out basically.

GRIFFIN: They would find themselves hanging out and sleeping over, at home of a cousin's boyfriend neither had known 18 year Adam Budge. But he seemed nice.

Budge said he special treat a bag of chocolate that he had cooked with a white powder he said was extract from psychedelic mushrooms.

RIPPENTROP: He just gave Elijah another bag and said "Here you go have fun". We're just kind started taking bits out of it just eating it. It taste just like chocolate. It didn't taste anything bad, no chemical taste or anything, it was just chocolate. And we just ended up splitting the bag. It was nothing like anything I have before. I was kind of scared but I was like reassuring myself and my subconscious that it just mushrooms, it just mushrooms.

GRIFFIN: I wasn't just psychedelic mushrooms. It was something much worse. And for Justin it was already too late to stop what was about to happen.

You remember what was happening? What are you seeing?

RIPPENTROP: The trees looked like cauliflowers, like dancing around. Like there were like stationary still but they like swung really funny in the sidewalk, sort of swooping up and down like a roller coaster, and the grass was shooting up to the sky and dropping back down and.

GRIFFIN: You were really tripping?

RIPPENTROP: Yeah, I was like "Oh, my God", you know, like this is getting really intense. GRIFFIN: Down stairs Elijah Stai was beginning to convulse.

RIPPENTROP: Adam was already down there with Elijah. He had told me that Elijah was going into a bad trip and I asked him "Do we need to call 911? He's like, "No, it just mushrooms. He like, "He's going to be fine, his going into a bad trip."

KATZ: He started to, I guess foam at the mouth yelling. I guess he was hitting his head just convulsing uncontrollably.

GRIFFIN: Finally the police were called.

RIPPENTROP: I started to assist with CPR, but the affects of the drugs I wasn't able to do it. He's face started to contort because of the drugs and he really mess me on and I told him I was going to wait outside for 911 to direct them in. I was like -- I couldn't see him like that. I was...

GRIFFIN: He was dead.

RIPPENTROP: He was dead, yeah.

KATZ: We got the phone call that Eli wasn't breathing, (inaudible) in the face.

GRIFFIN: You had to call your mom.

RIPPENTROP: I called her when I went outside waiting for 911.

GRIFFIN: And told her?

RIPPENTROP: Told her Elijah died.

GRIFFIN: Where you able to fully tell her why?

RIPPENTROP: No. I was ashamed myself for failing and more or less. I feel like I'd failed him

GRIFFIN: Justin Rippentrop was teen when Elijah Stai's family had taken him in, raise him as their own.

RIPPENTROP: Now, after everything they've done for me, Elijah was laying their dead and I was alive.

GRIFFIN: Elijah suffered multiple organ failures and went into cardiac arrest cutting the oxygen supply to his brain.

KATZ: When I got to hospital the doctors said that Elijah was brain dead. He was in hospital for three days, he's on life support. So we had to make the call to disconnect him.

GRIFFIN: There were now two dead. Teenagers overdosing and dying from a deadly drug. And no one knew what it was or where it was coming from.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GRIFFIN: In a week of June 10th 2012 law enforcement in Grand Forks were dealing with an outbreak of violent overdoses. A mystery drug on the street had already killed two teenagers.

TIMOTHY PURDON, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR NORTH DAKOTA: We've got multiple overdoses, we got two young men who've lose their lives and what's more serious than that.

GRIFFIN: Tim Purdon is the U.S. Attorney for North Dakota.

PURDON: I was unprecedented, you know, I had -- I've been U.S. Attorney for going now four years. This is the only time we've reach out to a school system to the University and said "Hey, there's this danger on the street right now that people need to be aware about."

GRIFFIN: As the emergency warning where being issued investigators were desperately trying to find out just what this drug was and more importantly where it came from.

MYERS: It took lab analysis to determine the true nature of these substances. When we learned of what they were, 2C-I-NBOMe and 2C-C- NBOMe. That was new to us.

GRIFFIN: 2C-I-NBOMe and 2C-C-NBOMe are synthetic designer drugs, chemical design to imitate the high of the ban drug LSD. These drugs are so potent. A dose the size of a few grains of salt is enough to get high.

North Dakota's top federal drug prosecutor had never heard of them and neither had Christian Bjerk parents.

DEBBIE BJERK, CHRISTIAN' MOTHER: I had to go to the internet and look up information on it. And I really didn't understand the whole synthetic drug, I didn't know what it was, didn't know how dangerous they were.

K. BJERK: The message we got after we went into internet was that somebody had said it was OK for these drugs to on the street. And they've been tweet. But that's all we knew.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Synthetic LSD ahs been blame for at least parents across the country, are now learning the painful truth about synthetic designer drugs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Investigator say he overdose on synthetic marijuana.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Otherwise known as K2.

GRIFFIN: With deaths and overdoses reported almost daily.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Poisons of 15 year old girl.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... ended at just 18 years old. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These drugs are being market and sold as legal alternative to Marijuana, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, LSD, and Heroin.

GRIFFIN: In the last four years more that 300 synthetic designer drugs with names like Spice, N-Bombe and Bath Salts have flooded into United States. Even the popular club drug Molly which is marketed as a pure form of the drug ecstasy is being replaced by a variety of synthetic compounds. According to DEA scientists the high is maybe the same but the molecular structure is modified just enough to evade the law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These chemical companies altering the compound ever since slightly to avoid our laws here in United States. Once they alter that chemical there's no longer control substance.

GRIFFIN: So it's a game?


GRIFFIN: These drugs are particularly dangerous because users can't be sure what their getting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've seen the packages that have the exact same label, the exact the same brand, the same flavoring that are (inaudible), exact same time that have completely different drugs in them.

GRIFFIN: Almost every state and the federal government have passed laws, outlawing specific chemical formulas sold as synthetic drugs but the manufacturers are saying one step ahead of law enforcement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These chemical companies anticipate future law enforcement actions of whether it would be new laws and they have a new chemical compound that is ready to take the place of the drugs that we control.

GRIFFIN: In the new world of drug dealing, chemicals are manufactured overseas. Sold online bulk and imported into the U.S. They are then assembled, packaged and sold as research chemicals labeled not for human consumption to avoid prosecution.

Is there any legitimate industrial purpose of those chemicals?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not aware of any legitimate industrial or medical use for these chemicals.

GRIFFIN: You can buy synthetic drugs on hundreds of websites that say it's all legal. We did, that cost around $30 a pocket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) black ultra collectors' item not for human consumption, it's what it says on this product description.

GRIFFIN: We sent these collector's items to Cayman Chemical and Analytical Lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well that's just the mathematical comparison of... GRIFFIN: All of them contained dangerous chemicals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is the tryptamine, it's a hallucinogen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And according to Greg Andres (ph), only a lab test can determine exactly what's inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We found a variety of substances including synthetic cannabinoids, in one case a hallucinogenic tryptamine. We found amphetamine analogue, all which I would considered designer drugs.

GRIFFIN: How dangerous this is drug, from chemical compound situation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quite dangerous. There's a whole variety of recorded effects ranging from rapid or irregular heartbeats, hallucinogenic effects, seizures, psychosis and there been several report in suicides.

GRIFFIN: And in Grand Forks at North Dakota, the death of Elijah Stai and Christian Bjerk.

It turns out the drugs that killed Elijah and Christian arrived in Grand Forks by mail, purchased over the internet by a local drug dealer.

MYERS: He was one of the primary sources of supply for analogue controlled substances in this area.

GRIFFIN: But finding that dealer would turn out to be only the beginning and unraveling this deadly mystery which was about to take yet another turn.


GRIFFIN: As police we're learning more about the synthetic drugs that killed two teens in Grand Forks, North Dakota there was someone in that small city who was somewhat of an expert, Andrew Spofford, a local drug dealer who along with marijuana and cocaine was also selling chemicals he bought on the internet, the synthetic drugs that killed Christian Bjerk and Elijah Stai came wrapped, stamped and delivered right to Spofford's door.

MYERS: He had a fairly good working knowledge of the substances, the potency of the substances and what dose of units would be common for typical user amounts.

GRIFFIN: What Spofford didn't know was he was getting ripped off. In a crime that would set off a deadly chain of events. One of his customers Adam Budge had broken into Spofford's home and stolen a bag of white powder without knowing exactly what was inside that bag or just how potent it was.

Budge melted the powder into chocolate that he gave to his new friends including Elijah Stai. Budge also sold of the same drug to a young man who would share it with Christian Bjerk.

MYERS: Adam Budge early on in the investigation was the common link between these two overdose victims. So Adam Budge prepared the 2C-I- NBOMe in some chocolates and both he and Eli Stai consumed some of those chocolates and Eli Stai died from them.

GRIFFIN: 1,400 miles away in a suburb of Houston, Texas, a father and entrepreneur named Charles Carlton was oblivious to the fact that an unraveling chain of events in Grand Forks was about to turn his world upside down.

CARLTON: I've always kind of enjoyed the psychedelic experience. And it started with experimenting with LCD in high school. And then I started ordering, you know, what people would call designer drugs off the internet and just experimenting with those. And, you know, just realized there was money to be made in, you know, distributing them in small qualities.

GRIFFIN: Carlton had idea to turn into his passion for synthetic hallucinogens into a business. He would limit his customers to those like him, knowledgeable and interested in experimenting with synthetic highs. His company Motion Resources with its website called Motion Research would be a boutique drug dealership for enthusiasts.

CARLTON: We could put in people hands things that they wouldn't be able to get otherwise.

GRIFFIN: But it was turning into a real business that you could at least let go of it.

CARLTON: Absolutely.

GRIFFIN: Though the companies product mimic the illegal drug LSD. Carlton says the chemicals he was selling weren't yet scheduled or banned in the United States. He set up shop in this office building even registered with the Secretary Of State, and went to work.

CARLTON: I was an employee of my own company, getting a W-2. I mean we had full payroll services. It was as legitimate as it could be. And we knew we were walking a very fine line as far as the law was concerned. But at the time, we felt that we were on the right side of it.

GRIFFIN: Without so much as leaving his computer Carlton says he and his two colleagues were repackaging chemicals they bought in bulk, filling 30 to 40 orders a day.

CARLTON: It's fairly easy to find chemical suppliers. And the product sells itself generally as much of it as you could get you could get. You could get rid of pretty quickly.

GRIFFIN: Motion Resources had customers in all 50 states and profits were rolling in.

MYERS: Carlton was not unlike any other drug trafficker. He's looking for the best product at the lowest price. And so he would obtain this product from the best suppliers he could find.

GRIFFIN: What is a little different is that he was able to do all of this in the comfort of his own study in his house.

MYERS: Right.

GRIFFIN: Basically he setup this business from a computer that was hooked up to the internet.

MYERS: Right. He set up a large scale drug trafficking organization by using a computer.

GRIFFIN: That to me is scary.

MYERS: It is scary of the ability to mass market their product to an enormous customer base under the guise of a legitimate business.

GRIFFIN: Carlton felt that guise of legitimate business would hold up in court as long his customers agreed to the phrase stamped on every package he sent out that none of what he was selling would actually be consumed.

So what was the phrase?

CARLTON: For analytical and research purposes only.

GRIFFIN: What would be that purpose other than to consume it and to experience the high?

CARLTON: Well that's a good question. I mean, make no mistake we knew people were consuming it. I honestly don't know how it (inaudible) so fast. But it got to the point where we'd process, you know, $40,000 to $50,000 a month in credit card payments.

GRIFFIN: I mean at that point you thought hey I got a legitimate shop running here?


GRIFFIN: It was all going so well, Motion Resources was up and running for eight months.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Grand Forks Police were called to 415...

GRIFFIN: Until one day Carlton say a story on the news about drug overdoses in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

CARLTON: I saw a news story where there was an overdose death in North Dakota. And then pretty quickly there was T.V. new report and they showed a bag that said 25I-NBOMe on it. And we used very specific bags. And we had a very special label maker that printed on clear labels and it was blatantly obvious that it was ours.

GRIFFIN: What was your immediate reaction?

CARLTON: I was in shock. I have kids, you know? It that's not - we didn't want anything like that to happen. And I mean that's the only reaction I have. I mean I don't even know how to describe it?

GRIFFIN: Did you go to work the next day?

CARLTON: Well I did.

GRIFFIN: Carlton says he didn't want to draw attention so he continued to run Motion Resources as if nothing had happened. He says he was trying to sell off his supply, shut the business down. But the prosecutor says there is evidence Carlton was in the process of changing the business name allegedly to keep Motion Resources running. Carlton admits he was sweating with good reason. His world was about to crumble by a betrayal on the inside.


GRIFFIN: In Texas, Charles Carlton was living in fear. He knew he had sold the drugs that killed two teens in North Dakota because she shipped them to one of his clients in Grand Forks named Andrew Spofford.

At anytime along the way before the deaths, did you consider, "I got to stop this?"

CARLTON: I did. You know, it was the cause of probably quite a few arguments between my wife and I. She didn't want to have anything to do it and she didn't want me to have anything to do with that, and I should have listened to her advice.

GRIFFIN: At one point, I think she destroyed your office.

CARLTON: And she did.

GRIFFIN: She did. She had had enough.

CARLTON: She had.

GRIFFIN: She knew you were doing wrong.

CARLTON: She did and so did I.

GRIFFIN: Carlton says he was becoming paranoid. He had good reason. One of his colleagues a man named Harry George Nicholas (ph) suddenly quit and records were missing.

In Grand Forks, federal Prosecutor Chris Myers got a phone call that would crack the case.

MYERS: Before we heard of Motion Resources, his partner contacted our office through his lawyer and indicated to us that he could explain the entire conspiracy to us.

GRIFFIN: Nicholas (ph) would avoid prosecution but Charles Carlton would not be so lucky. And when police raided the office of Motion Resources and Carlton's home they found this critical piece of evidence proof that Carlton's guys of legitimacy that his drugs were being sold for research was all just a cover for their real purpose. In his own hand, Carlton was detailing how to use these drugs and just how dangerous they could be.

MYERS: It was a journal documenting these substances being used by Mr. Carlton and friends of Mr. Carlton and the effects and the various amounts of the substances and how they would affect the body. And that was powerful evidence to show that they knew full well what the substances do and then form this company to sell them.

GRIFFIN: Carlton decided not to fight and has pled guilty to three accounts, possession with intent to distribute controlled substance analogue, money laundering, and misbranding. It could send him to prison for life.

CARLTON: I can't justify anything that I did. I'm not only intent to you. I mean the only thing that I hope to do is let these many people know as possible that no matter how hard you try to be safe, and no matter how hard do you think you have or how well you think you have it under control, the -- somebody is going get hurt or even die. These chemicals are so dangerous that all it takes is for someone to just have some of it and not know what they have.

GRIFFIN: Yet you did think that. You thought you were smart enough to handle it and smart enough to think that your customers know what the hell they were doing.

CARLTON: And that's right.

GRIFFIN: He is the 15th person so far to be prosecuted under the North Dakota federal drug case now called Operation Stolen Youth, that began with the deaths of Christian Bjerk and Elijah Stai.

Andrew Spofford who bought the drugs online from Charles Carlton, Adam Budge who got the drugs from Spofford, the teen who bought the drugs from Budge and shared them with Christian Bjerk and several low level dealers are all behind bars.

D. BJERK: Yes, I know exactly he was saying to me. He was actually telling me he was angry and he went to eat right after the game. He was going to go out with some friends and get a sandwich.

GRIFFIN: And at the hearings and sentencing, Debbie Bjerk has been there to speak of older son Christian and to play this video.

D. BJERK: Yes, it put a human being behind the name. It's one thing to read a name on a sheet of paper that, you know, this person died. That's another thing to see actual footage of them, you know, talking, walking, being with their family.

GRIFFIN: She will be there when Charles Carlton is sentenced.

You will upon sentencing see and hear from those parents.

CARLTON: I will.

GRIFFIN: Undoubtedly, Christian's mom is going to play that video of her son. Have you thought about how you're going to handle that moment?

CARLTON: I haven't. I mean, I thought about the moment but I haven't necessarily thought about how I'm going to handle it.

GRIFFIN: That will be the same moment theoretically you'll have to say goodbye to your kids.

CARLTON: Well, it's not the same. Me saying goodbye to me kids, I'm going to be down the street. I'll be back in a little while. This is completely different than the kind of goodbye they had to get with their kids.

Their kids aren't coming back.

Want to go to mommy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll be safe (ph).

GRIFFIN: Carlton's wife Susan knows even a reduced sentence will mean she will raise their two young children alone.

You will then be there to see the mothers of the two boys who died and hear their story about their sons who are no longer here. Do you hold your husband responsible for that?

S. CALRTON: Not entirely. Not entirely. I can't. I hate that he was a part of this. My heart goes collapse to those mothers. It's just simply should have never ever happened.

GRIFFIN: The case is about to come to a final conclusion for Charles Carlton. He and his wife have arrived in Grand Forks and were about to head in to the Federal Court House to face his faith.

But with all the arrest in criminal cases, the major source of synthetic drugs will remains untouched. The big fish is getting away.

D. BJERK: Ultimately, it has to stop with the manufacturing facility over in China.

K. BJERK: Yeah.

D. BJERK: And there anything more than industrial grade chemical.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And say not dangerous, not poisonous.


GRIFFIN: There is a new drug war underway.

At Los Angeles International, the new battle is trying to intercept synthetic designer drugs.

Customs Inspectors open and test suspicious packages looking for what's not listed on customs forms.

This package claims to contain plastic. It turns out to be bath salts but chemically produced synthetic stimuli that mimics meth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's an analog of methylone which is scheduled controlled substance, so this can be treated as a scheduled controlled substance.

GRIFFIN: And it came from that country that according to the DEA is manufacturing and shipping most of the synthetic drugs worldwide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From China, mainland China.

GRIFFIN: It's no secret to law enforcement where it comes from. And it's no secret to drug dealers seeking to become entrepreneurs in the new world of designer drugs.

CHARLES CARLTON: Any laboratory in China, if you send them what's called a CAS number which is -- it's just a number that's designated to essentially every chemical substance that exists.

As long as this is not scheduled, they will manufacture it for you. Specifically, it's called a custom synthesis and ship it to you.

GRIFFIN: Charles Carlton, who sold the drugs that killed Elijah Stai and Christian Bjerk says he used the internet to buy much of his supply in bulk from China.

CARLTON: There are a lot of brokers as well like he will order from a guy in Poland and receive a package from China.

GRIFFIN: And it is all labeled as research chemical and not for human consumption when you get it?

CARLTON: For the most part, yes.

GRIFFIN: Shanghai, China's largest city. Its towering Waterfront and bustling streets, it is also home to chemical company turning out synthetics or pure poison.

In the emerging global market of the synthetic drug world, the Shanghai region is the epicenter.


GRIFFIN: This is the office of a synthetic drug dealer undercover video taken by a French documentary filmmaker of a bragging drug entrepreneur claiming to supply the world with his manufactured highs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This stuff (inaudible). It sells popularly in Russian market and people take it. And they put in mouth or in nose, it's OK.

GRIFFIN: This tours a sales pitch. The undercover reporter is pretending to be a buyer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How ... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not dangerous, not poisonous.

It's a K2. They're famous in America.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not for human consumption.

All stuff work.

You send us your design, your logo, what kind of size the packing you want. We can send to you. So out of your (inaudible) it's all safe and then direct to this (inaudible) China.

We handle all the logistics. If the package is lost we resend again...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... for free. So that's our guarantee. I already got $50 million from this market. So you see, we are not small ones.

GRIFFIN: What is the U.S. doing about this? Negotiating.

GIL KERLIKOWSKE, U.S. CUSTOMS COMMISSIONER: When I visited China and began negotiations over a year ago with our Chinese counterparts, it was about these are not under the control of China law.

GRIFFIN: Gil Kerlikowske is the U.S. Customs Commissioner and President Obama's former drug czar.

He says he has been working with the Chinese to ban the manufacture of synthetic drugs in China.

KERLIKOWSKE: And so we said, you should really consider place in this under your mandates because they're clearly being designed to harm people.

GRIFFIN: Is it enough to just ask China to do this?

KERLIKOWSKE: No, I think that we were very strong about the concerns. I think China recognize too that they have a lot of chemical plans. They do a lot of export.

We have to be closer in our ties and closer in our communication with them about where these drugs are coming.

GRIFFIN: According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, China has made some arrests and has recently banned 11 synthetic substances.

CNN cannot confirm China is doing anything.

Four months, CNN has requested visas for a CNN investigative team to travel to Shanghai. There have been continuous requests by Chinese officials for additional information but their visas have not been granted. Request for an interview or comment from China's ambassador here in the U.S. have gone unanswer.

KATZ: This is the funeral to Eli and ...

GRIFFIN: Melissa Katz, Elijah Stai's mother doesn't understand what there is to negotiate. Chinese factories are making a fortune, she says, selling poison.

GRIFFIN: What would you like to say to them?

KATZ: How dare you come into my country and sell drugs to our children?

GRIFFIN: Do you think they care?

KATZ: No. They don't care.

GRIFFIN: CNN has learned the synthetic drugs that killed Melissa's son, Elijah and Christian Bjerk were most likely made in China.

So far, there appears to be no movement by the U.S. to find and persecute the manufacturer of this synthetic poison.

Chris Myers, the Federal Prosecutor in this case will not discuss the source of the chemicals and that is not good enough for Debbie and Keith Bjerk.

D. BJERK: I would like to know the name of the factory, where these drugs were manufacturing.

GRIFFIN: You don't know the name of the factory

D. BJERK: No, I have not been told the name of the factory.

GRIFFIN: Do they know it?

D. BJERK: I'm sure they do. And I would like to, you know, I said, what can I do? Write letters, whatever and I've been kind to -- told that ...

K. BJERK: The second (ph).

D. BJERK: And it would be sort of pointless because it's illegal in China. But the people over there need to know that these drugs are killing people.

GRIFFIN: In North Dakota, the case that is now called Operation Stolen Youth had begin with the death of their son Christian Bjerk is heading back to federal court in Fargo. The next chapter is about to unfold. Where a nervous Charles Carlton, the federal prosecution's main target in this case is about to be sentence.

CARLTON: I know that it's going to be a long time. And I know that I'm going to be severely punished, you know, for what I'm responsible for. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN: Fargo North Dakota August 28 2014, it is been more than two years since Christian Bjerk and Elijah Stai died from a chemical poisoning from synthetic drugs.

In a matter of hours Charles Carlton, the man who sold those drugs will become the 15th and likely the last person to be sentence in the case.

CARLTON: I know that it's going to be a long time. And I know that I'm going to be severely punished, you know, for what I'm responsible for.

GRIFFIN: At the federal court house the family of Christian Bjerk is already heading inside. They attended most of the hearings and sentences to show this video and pictures of their 18 year old son before and even after he was found dead on the Grand Forks sidewalk. Carlton is struggling with what to say to them, but he's also struggling knowing he could spend the next two decades and as long as the rest of his life behind bars.

CARLTON: Yes. Like make no mistake it's going to completely change my life. I'll never be able come back out and go home with the same place I left whether it be 10 or 20. And I am extremely nervous and I owe an apology to so many people and I've been grappling with how to do it. Every single person in that court room I'm going to owe an apology too, on both sides including this community.

GRIFFIN: Carlton's wife and parents have traveled from Houston to be here. Operations Stolen Youth which started with five overdoses and two deaths. And so far that the 14 defendants convicted and sentenced to a total of 101 years in prison. Lives ruined because of this little powder that two years ago seemed like an innocent safe synthetic high.

Prosecutor Chris Myers believes the exhausted case is been a success.

MYERS: The message that we have sent with this prosecution is that these are dangerous substances and hopefully that can help raise awareness and save some lives.

We have two families that lost young kids, kids with promised and bright futures for no reason.

GRIFFIN: Cameras are not allowed inside federal court. Charles Carlton with his wife quietly crying one row behind him is sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Outside the court the Bjerks leave for the last time, their sentence is for life.

K. BJERK: It's never going to be done. Christian was -- he's our child. He's our flesh and blood. He is someone that is so important to us. We would give our lives for him. And, you know, our job now is just to get the word out there to the rest of the people so no other families have to go through this kind of thing and to honor our son to honor his memory.

D. BJERK: All the kids and young adult that's here today please tell them the story, please tell them...

GRIFFIN: Since their son Christian's death, the Bjerks have become activist getting out the word on the dangers of synthetic drugs. Thanks to their efforts, North Dakota has put in mew legislation banning a number of synthetics and federally the drug that killed Christian and Elijah is now on the list of banned substances.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This stuff is not safe just because you can order on the internet. Don't be fooled by that. Don't put yourself in your family, in the position of this families in Grand Forks found themselves. Talk to your kids that synthetic drugs are dangerous. All drugs are dangerous.

KATZ: And this was done for memorial for Elijah. This is for (inaudible) the king (ph).

GRIFFIN: The family of Elijah Stai, say they too hope their son's death can be a warning to others about the dangers of synthetic designer drugs.

KATZ: Our lives were turned upside down. Our lives will never be the same. I don't know if he can really put something like that into words. What your life is like after you lost a kid. It's horrific, things that ever have to go through for any parent. Elijah was a good kid. This can happen to any family.

K. BJERK: I talk to a lot of people during the course of the day or the course of a month. And, you know, if it comes up we have this conversation that most people still don't know what they are. They know what the drugs are or how badly they can impact their lives.

Well we're witnessing the impact now. We've had this horrible lost, we lost a child. We didn't know about the drugs. We know about them now and the word needs to get out there, to the rest of the world that these things will kill -- they'll kill your kids, they're going to kill anybody who takes them. They're pure unadulterated poison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The notion that white cops are out there just killing black people, that's ridiculous.