Former Owner of Carlsbad “Head Shop” Pleads Guilty to Federal “Spice” Trafficking and Money Laundering Charges
ALBUQUERQUE – Garlan R. Plumlee, 62, of Carlsbad, N.M., entered a guilty plea this afternoon in Las Cruces federal court to distribution of a controlled substance analogue and money laundering. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Plumlee will be sentenced to two years of probation.
Plumlee and his co-defendants, Phillip Larez, 33, and Justin E. Thompson, 33, also of Carlsbad, were indicted in Dec. 2012, and charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance analogue, distribution of a controlled substance analogue, and possession of a controlled substance analogue with intent to distribute. The indictment also charged Plumlee with money laundering offenses. The indictment was superseded in March 2014, to add an additional possession with intent to distribute charge against the three defendants.
The superseding indictment alleged that from March 2011 through June 2012, the defendants conspired to distribute controlled substance analogues in Eddy County, N.M. It also alleges that they distributed controlled substance analogues on Feb. 2, 2012 and June 27, 2012, and that they possessed controlled substance analogues with intent to distribute on June 28, 2012. Plumlee also was charged with laundering the proceeds of this unlawful drug trafficking.
The controlled substance analogues charged in the superseding indictment are commonly referred to as synthetic marijuana or “spice.” According to the DEA, over the past several years, there has been a growing use of synthetic cannabinoids. Smoke-able herbal blends marketed as being “legal” and providing a marijuana-like high have become increasingly popular because they are easily available and, in many cases, more potent and dangerous than marijuana. These products consist of plant material that has been coated with dangerous psychoactive compounds that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. These substances, however, have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for human consumption, and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process. Synthetic cannabinoids often are labeled as incense to mask their intended purpose.
The three men used “The Looking Glass,” a head shop owned by Plumlee and located on Canal Street in Carlsbad to sell “spice,” under the names “Scooby Snax,” “Diablo,” and “Knockout.” Officers seized approximately 4,779 packages of “spice” with 38 different names from “The Looking Glass” on June 28, 2012, when they executed a search warrant at the business. Plumlee withdrew $147,000 out of his business and personal bank accounts the day after the search warrant was executed.
Today Plumlee entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to distribute “spice” and money laundering. In his plea agreement, Plumlee admitted being the owner of “The Looking Glass” from March 2011 through June 2012, and selling controlled substances which were labeled as “incense.” He also admitted withdrawing $147,000, which included proceeds from the sale of “spice,” from his personal and business bank accounts on June 28, 2012, to prevent law enforcement from seizing the money.
Co-defendant Thompson pled guilty on April 4, 2014, to conspiracy to distribute “spice” under a plea agreement that requires a sentence of two years of probation. Thompson admitted being the manager of “The Looking Glass,” and selling “incense” at “The Looking Glass” while knowing that the “incense” was “spice.”
On Aug. 5, 2014, co-defendant Larez pled guilty to distributing “spice” under a plea agreement that specifies a sentence of one year of probation. Larez admitted that on June 27, 2014, while working at “The Looking Glass,” he sold some “incense” to an undercover officer, and that the “incense” contained a detectable amount of an analogue known as “spice.”
The case was investigated by the Las Cruces office of the DEA and the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Renee L. Camacho and E. Garreth Winstead of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office.
The Pecos Valley Drug Task Force is comprised of officers from the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office, Carlsbad Police Department, Artesia Police Department, and is part of the HIDTA Region VI Drug Task Force. The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program was created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. HIDTA is a program of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) which provides assistance to federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States and seeks to reduce drug trafficking and production by facilitating coordinated law enforcement activities and information sharing.