When the mail arrived at the Broward County jail, it looked like someone was putting in a lot of care and effort drawing cartoon characters and tattoo designs for a very special inmate.
There was more to those artistic postcards than met the eye: They were laced with a hallucinogenic drug that proved so popular behind bars that many inmates paid $10 for a “hit” — a tiny torn scrap of postcard to put in their mouths and absorb the synthetic drug, court records show.
Two inmates, Gregory Golden, 41, and Dean Aubol, 35, pleaded guilty Friday to federal charges of conspiring to possess and distribute the drug, known as 25I-NBOMe, which experts say has an effect similar to LSD.
A third man, William Hahne, 56, has pleaded not guilty to the same federal charges and a related state charge of introducing contraband into the jail.
Federal prosecutors say Hahne made and mailed the drug-soaked cards to Aubol, and Aubol and Golden traded the drug with other inmates in exchange for cash or commissary items such as candy, snacks and other treats.
Jail officials did not know what was going on until August when an inmate at the Joseph V. Conte jail in Pompano Beach told law enforcement what he thought was LSD was being brought into the jail. The inmate said Hahne, who had been released from the jail several weeks earlier, was mailing Aubol envelopes containing postcard drawings laced with drugs.
“The contraband is then torn into tiny pieces (hits) and distributed throughout the jail by the inmates … The [informant] further advised that Golden was tearing approximately 250 pieces of paper laced with the hallucinogen and selling them inside the correctional facility for $10 apiece,” prosecutor Jodi Anton wrote in court records.
Golden’s girlfriend, who apparently was not charged, helped him send money by Western Union to Hahne, who then mailed the drugs to the jail, investigators wrote.
The inmate said he came forward because he saw an inmate “experience an extremely adverse reaction” after taking several hits of the paper.
Investigators put $60 in the informant’s commissary account to buy some of the drug and turn it over to them. The inmate said Golden told him to wait and another inmate delivered two pieces of paper within several minutes.
Investigators said they intercepted an envelope sent with a fake name from Hahne’s Miami apartment to Aubol at the jail. It contained a typewritten letter and a square piece of paper with a comic-style character drawing.
“I am thinking about getting the enclosed image tattooed on my upper arm … I’m imagining offering some guy who fits the bill a generous supply of 25 in exchange for his assistance,” the letter read.
The letter mentioned, in veiled terms, concerns about giving a second inmate a supply of drugs that might be viewed as competing with the jail’s existing salesman. The writer, who authorities say was Hahne, asked if the new supplier could get himself moved to a different jail housing unit.
The letter also discussed the possibility of setting up similar arrangements elsewhere in South Florida and in Washington, D.C.
“l am cash poor and 25 filthy rich,” the letter went on.
A day later, investigators said they intercepted a second envelope — this time with Hahne’s name and return address — containing a letter and a drawing of a pair of eyes.
“[The girlfriend] asked me to send him this picture she drew along with the message that the eyes of Texas are upon him,” that letter read. The drawing also tested positive for the drug, authorities said.
Hahne was unable to pick up at least some of the money sent by Golden’s girlfriend because of a misunderstanding about the code name they used. When police interviewed Golden’s girlfriend, she said she thought the papers were just inspirations for tattoo designs.
Hahne was arrested Aug. 27 after investigators went to his home and found several postcards from Aubol. Hahne told investigators he became friend with Golden in jail when Hahne was locked up for an April arrest for trafficking the drug.
Hahne once worked as a chemical engineer for Broward County until a series of drug-related arrests, starting in 2004 with a federal charge of manufacturing the drug Euphoria at his Fort Lauderdale home.
He is now undergoing psychiatric evaluation at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami.
His lawyer Glenn Kritzer wrote in court records that Hahne, who has a history of mental illness, was showing signs of possible confusion and did not appear to understand everything though he is “obviously an intelligent person.”
“He indicated that he believed that he was “working with the Government” while he was allegedly committing the crime,” Kritzer wrote. Prosecutors have said Hahne certainly was not working with authorities.
Aubol has been locked up in the Broward County Jail system since July 2013, facing several charges stemming from a carjacking in Fort Lauderdale. Golden has been jailed since December 2012 on charges he burglarized a Davie construction site.
They face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine when they are sentenced in April.
The series of drugs classified as NBOMes are a relatively new synthetic drug the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration declared illegal in November 2013. The drug is offered in several forms, including powders, liquids, laced into edible items and soaked into blotter paper, according to the DEA. Experts say it is potent, unsafe for human use and has been linked to several deaths in the U.S.