Strasburg man pleads guilty to drug distribution

Brandon Zappas

FRONT ROYAL — A Strasburg man pleaded guilty on Thursday to distribution of alpha-PVP, a drug similar to the street drug commonly known as “bath salts.”

Brandon Shawn Zappas, 43, was the driver in a drug transaction between two confidential informants and the woman in the passenger seat of Zappas’ car in Linden in May 2016, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Fleming explained during Thursday’s hearing.

John Bell, Zappas’ attorney in the case, said that his client is not clearly visible in the informants’ video recording, and that his involvement in the transaction would only be driving to and from it. Bell said Zappas would still enter the plea agreement because it’d be in his best interest to do so.

Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp noted during the proceeding that Virginia law allows Zappas to be charged and prosecuted as if he was the only one who actually sold the alpha-PVP, although his involvement in the crime was limited to driving.


The drug in this case is also commonly known as Flakka or Gravel, and can cause paranoia and severe hallucinations that can lead to violent behavior, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Zappas was given a five-year suspended sentence as part of the plea agreement, which Fleming said was because the prosecution has not been able to locate the woman who sold the drugs, and the lead investigator in these cases was in a different state, making it more difficult to prosecute the two cases together.

There is also $120 in restitution that Zappas must pay from the drug transaction, which his co-defendant is equally responsible for. Zappas must complete two years of supervised probation, and was credited with the three and a half months in jail he served on the charge.