'Shroom Room: Tosa Police Find Psilocybin Growing Operation
Vegan turned from growing legal, nutritional mushrooms to illicit kinds, with enough success to earn a maximum charge for manufacturing the drug.
A 23-year-old Wauwatosa man turned his expertise at culturing mushrooms for food into an illicit drug operation when he started growing and selling psychedelic varieties at his mother's home, according to police reports.
Admir A. Karabegovic was arrested Tuesday and has since been charged with manufacturing psilocin/psilocybin mushrooms, two counts of delivery of same, and three counts of delivery of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
The manufacturing charge against Karabegovic is specified for a quantity of more than 500 grams and is the maximum for that drug, a Class E felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The delivery of mushrooms charges carry maximum 10-year penalities; the THC charges, three years and six months each.
After an undercover operation produced enough evidence for a search warrant, Wauwatosa police officers visited Karabegovic at work in The Chancery parking lot, where he is an attendant, and asked if he was growing illegal mushrooms at home.
He denied it and was detained while officers called his mother at their residence in the 11700 block of Watertown Plank Road. She said she knew he was growing mushrooms in the basement but said they were all legal, edible kinds. She gave permission to officers to enter and see for themselves.
Karabegovic was then taken to his home in police custody, an officer read the warrant aloud to his mother, and the home was searched.
In the basement, officers found four large growing bins containing suspected psilocin/psilocybin mushrooms, totaling 506.56 grams wet weight – just over 1.1 pounds. They also located 42 grams of dried mushrooms. According to Karabegovic himself, it takes 100 grams of fresh mushrooms to produce 1 gram dried. A small amount of marijuana was found as well, as was equipment for processing, weighing and packaging various drugs.
Wauwatosa police are not regularly equipped with field test kits for mushrooms, but in preparation for the search had been authorized to conduct a test through the State Crime Lab. It was positive for all the suspected material.
Karabegovic willingly gave a statement to police in which he said he is a vegan – a strict vegetarian who also eats no dairy, eggs or other animal-produced products – and had begun growing edible mushrooms to add proteins and nutrients to his diet about a year and a half ago.
About five months ago, he said, he decided to apply his newfound knowledge of mycology to growing psychedelic varieties. His first attempt yielded a bumper crop of one-half pound when dried, and he began to sell some among a circle of friends.
Karabegovic gave consent for a search of his cell phone, which yielded additional evidence of drug sales.