Columbia Business Operators Indicted in $2 Million Conspiracy to Distribute Synthetic Drugs
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that the owner and operators of Bocomo Bay, a Columbia, Mo., retail business, have been indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute more than $2 million of synthetic marijuana, commonly referred to as K2.
Kevin E. Bay, 44, and John Hawkins, 61, both residents of Columbia, were charged in a 21-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury on Oct. 2, 2013. Bay is the owner of Bocomo Bay; Bay and Hawkins operate the business together. The indictment was unsealed and made public today following the initial court appearances of Bay and Hawkins, who self-surrendered to federal authorities this morning and were released on bond.
The federal indictment alleges that Bay and Hawkins participated in a conspiracy to distribute controlled substance analogues, also known as synthetic marijuana or K2, from March 1, 2011, to Oct. 2, 2013. K2 is a mixture of plant material that has been sprayed or mixed with a synthetic chemical compound similar to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. K2 products are often labeled as “incense,” but in reality are intended for human consumption as a drug.
The indictment also alleges that Bay and Hawkins participated in a conspiracy to distribute drug paraphernalia from Nov. 1, 2008, to Oct. 2, 2013. Bay is also charged with participating in a money-laundering conspiracy from March 1, 2011, to Oct. 2, 2013. The indictment alleges that Bay conducted financial transactions that involved the proceeds of the illegal drug-trafficking conspiracy. Bay is also charged with seven counts of money laundering.
In addition to the conspiracies, Bay and Hawkins are charged together in four counts of distributing a controlled substance analogue, one count of possessing a controlled substance analogue with the intent to distribute and five counts of distributing drug paraphernalia.
Hawkins is also charged with one count of being a felon in possession of firearms. The indictment alleges that Hawkins, who has previously been convicted of a felony, was in possession of a Taurus 9mm pistol and a Taurus .22-caliber revolver on Aug. 29, 2011.
The federal indictment also contains forfeiture allegations, which would require Bay and Hawkins to forfeit to the government $2,068,686 (obtained from the drug-trafficking and drug paraphernalia conspiracies) as well as items that were seized by law enforcement officers from Bocomo Bay and from the residence shared by Bay and Hawkins: $638,202, four one-ounce platinum bars, five one-ounce palladium bars, five one-ounce gold bars, a ¼-ounce gold bar, a 10-ounce gold bar, 33 silver bars of various weights (up to 100 ounces), a counterfeit Rolex watch, 10 pieces of miscellaneous jewelry, 2,039 miscellaneous gold and silver coins, 76 firearms (including an Uzi submachine gun, handguns, rifles and shotguns) and miscellaneous ammunition.
Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Connelly. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Synthetic Designer Drugs
Over the past several years, smokable herbal blends marketed as being “legal” and providing a marijuana-like high have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults, because they are easily available and, in many cases, they are 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 synthetic cannabinoids are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet. Brands such as K2, Spice, Blaze, and Red X Dawn are labeled as incense to mask their intended purpose. However, they have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human consumption or for medical use, and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process.
While many of the designer drugs being marketed today are not specifically prohibited in the Controlled Substances Act, the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act allows these drugs to be treated as controlled substances if they are proven to be chemically and/or pharmacologically similar to a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance. This analogue provision specifically exists to combat these new and emerging designer drugs.