Synthetic Drug Ring Busted in Palm Beach, Linked to Death of Boca Raton Teen
Back in June, a 15-year-old Boca Raton teen collapsed on the beach after downing some type of psychedelic. The speculation that snowballed after Zach Denaro's sad end included a lot of dud info, confusion, and anxiety. One of the more believable rumors floating online was that the teen had swallowed 25I-NBOMe, an analog substance that delivers the chemical shock and awe of LSD.
Now, authorities in Palm Beach have announced they've knocked down a suburban drug ring that funneled the same stuff -- known as N-Bomb or 25C or Lucy -- to locals. According to court documents, the 25I-NBOMe arrests lead right back to Denaro's death. And -- most surprising -- the figure sitting up top wasn't your standard-issue drug thug but a woman in her 50s.
As we first wrote in July, following the Denaro incident, the internet went code red. In the comment sections of news stories on the death, friends and nonfriends sounded off. On BocaNewsNow, one figure announced he'd sold the 25I-NBOMe to the teen. Obviously, that didn't sit so well with other commenters. In the angry back and forth, the individual announced he'd already spoken to police about the situation. They were working on it.
According to an affidavit written by the joint DEA-Palm Beach County Sheriff task force investigating the drug ring, that wasn't empty internet blabbing. The same individual (who has not been criminally charged) was contacted shortly after the death. He provided early information that helped investigators pull apart the setup allegedly run by 56-year-old Lisa Russo from her home.
Russo was allegedly purchasing the drugs from Silk Road, the recently shuttered internet bazaar for all things illegal. "[S]he learned of the website from her son, Ben, who was addicted to drugs and used the website to purchase drugs for his own personal consumption." At the time of the arrest on August 23, Russo's son was in a rehab facility. She agreed to wholesale a book of 25I-NBOMe (ten sheets, with 100 hits per sheet) for $2,400. Russo later told police she was selling drugs to supplement her income; she'd recently lost her job, and unemployment wasn't paying the bills.
The woman was the source for other dealers, according to the court documents. Two other men -- Zachary Triana and Pedro Gomez -- were also arrested as part of the sting. The latter, an 18-year-old from Lake Worth, sold 25I-NBOMe to undercover cops on August 15 for $40 for four tabs.
He was also arranging to provide ten sheets of 100 tabs running $250 a sheet when he was picked up on August 15. After his arrest, he told police that his source for the drugs had been Lisa Russo's son but that the mother "is not only aware that Ben was selling... but is responsible for the NBOMe."
Triana, a 21-year-old Boca Raton resident, met undercover police in the parking lot of Boca's Fresh Market on September 17, where he handed over four tabs for $50. Following his arrest, Triana provided more information on Russo's network and Denaro's death.
On Monday afternoon, New Times reached out to Russo' ex-husband, Mark Berger, for comment. He declined to say anything and said the same went for his former wife. Check back for more.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.