A text message has led to the arrest of a Marietta man accused of selling psilocybin mushrooms, a drug not seen often in the area.
According to a report from the Washington County Sheriff's Office, a local resident reported receiving an unsolicited text from an unknown number offering to sell him the psychedelic drug.
The number was traced back to Michael E. Hoffert, 30, of 421 Phillips St. Apt. 14.
"We received this information that he was dealing in mushrooms and he came to this location on a bicycle to sell to our undercover officer and had a conversation with him," said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.
Hoffert met the agent at the Speedway on Seventh Street Saturday, which is in the vicinity of Marietta Middle School, said Mincks.
The agent had arranged to purchase a quarter ounce of the drugs for $50. When Hoffert was arrested, he was in possession of nearly a half ounce of the drug.
Hallucinogenic mushrooms contain two psychoactive ingredients: psilocybin and psilocin.
Psilocybin is the main active ingredient and psilocin is found in smaller amounts, yet is more potent.
When ingested, the psilocybin in mushrooms is metabolized into psilocin and produce hallucinogenic effects that last for six to eight hours.
Physical effects include nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness and lack of coordination.
There are several species of hallucinogenic mushrooms, some grown domestically and some smuggled in from Mexico and Central America.
Mushrooms sell for $5 to $35 per gram.
Source: Drug Enforcement Administration and street drugs guide distributed by the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
He was arrested for trafficking in drugs, a third degree felony.
It is unclear whether Hoffert had sent a text message to the wrong number or was simply sending random text messages offering to sell the drug. A forensic specialist with the sheriff's office will be going through Hoffert's phone, said Mincks.
Mushrooms, which produce a psychedelic mind-altering effect similar to LSD, are not a common drug encountered by local law enforcement agencies.
"It's certainly not as common as heroin or marijuana or meth. It's probably at the bottom of the ones we see," said Mincks.
Shawn Graham, chief deputy for the Wood County Sheriff's Office, previously spent three years with the Parkersburg Violent Crime and Narcotics Task Force and has only encountered the drug on a few occasions.
"I can't say it's an everyday problem. It's at least not one of the out-of-control drugs like the explosion of bath salts and meth," he said.
On the occasions where Graham did run into the drug, it was in combination with other drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana.
It is possible to grow the mushrooms. Executing one warrant, Graham encountered someone who had downloaded instructions onto his computer detailing how to grow the mushroom spores.
It is not known if Hoffert grew the mushrooms himself, said Mincks.
Recently, a Washington County grand jury indicted a man for being in possession of psilocybin mushrooms. Frank J. Nichols Jr., 30, of 133 West High St. Box 3, Salem, W.Va., was stopped with the drug on Interstate 77 on May 25, 2012, and charged with a fifth-degree felony.
According to the Marietta Municipal Court public access records, Hoffert has previously been convicted of OVI, possession of drug paraphernalia, trespassing and multiple counts of criminal damaging and theft.
He is currently being held at the Washington County Jail in lieu of $15,00 bond. If convicted, the third-degree felony carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison.