Office of the United States Attorney, John S. Leonardo
District of Arizona
July 26, 2012
FIVE VALLEY MEN FACE FEDERAL CHARGES IN PHOENIX SYNTHETIC DRUG TAKEDOWN
PHOENIX – On July 25, 2012, five individuals were arrested in the Phoenix area as part of the first-ever nationwide law enforcement action against the synthetic designer drug industry responsible for the production and sale of synthetic drugs that are often marketed as bath salts, Spice, incense, or plant food. Operation Log Jam consisted of law enforcement activities conducted in more than 90 U.S. cities that targeted every level of the synthetic designer drug industry, including retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers.
Clinton Strunk, 42, of Mesa, was charged with attempting to distribute a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone (a-PVP), a Schedule I controlled substance analogue, knowing that the substance was intended for human consumption. Michael Lane, 51, of Cave Creek; Andrew Freeman, 25, of Tempe; Nicholas Zizzo, 25, of Phoenix; and Joshua Lowenstein, 25, of Phoenix, were each charged with aiding and abetting in the distribution of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of a-PVP, a Schedule I controlled substance analogue, knowing that the substance was intended for human consumption.
More specifically, three complaints filed in federal district court in Phoenix allege that Strunk attempted to distribute, and Lane, Freeman, Zizzo, and Lowenstein aided and abetted in the distribution of, Eight Ballz Ultra-Premium Glass Cleaner, Amped Exuberance Powder/Lady Bug Attractant, White Water Rapid Exuberance Powder/Ladybug Attractant, Snowman Glass Cleaner, Heavenly Soak Energy Soak and Hookah Cleaner, Lady Blanc, and Bullet Glass Cleaner, all of which contained a detectable amount of a-PVP, knowing that the substances were intended for human consumption.
“Synthetic drugs are intended to produce effects similar to, and can be as dangerous as, the harmful drugs they mimic,” said U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to keep these dangerous substances out of our communities.”
“This operation has disrupted the entire nationwide synthetic designer drug industry, from manufacturers and distributors to retailers,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman. “DEA and our partners have seized thousands of pounds of these dangerous substances and millions of dollars in illegal proceeds, and we will continue to use all the tools available to us to bring to justice those who peddle these poisons and harm our society.”
While many of the designer drugs being marketed today that were seized as part of Operation Log Jam are not specifically prohibited in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 (AEA) 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. A number of cases that are part of Operation Log Jam will be prosecuted federally under this analogue provision, which specifically exists to combat these new and emerging designer drugs.
DEA has used its emergency scheduling authority to combat both synthetic cathinones (the so-called bath salts) and synthetic cannabinoids (the so-called incense products like K2, Spice, etc.), temporarily placing several of these dangerous chemicals into Schedule I of the CSA. Congress has also acted, permanently placing 26 substances into Schedule I of the CSA.
In 2010, poison centers nationwide responded to about 3,200 calls related to synthetic “Spice” and “bath salts.” In 2011, that number jumped to more than 13,000 calls. Sixty percent of the cases involved patients 25 and younger.
Convictions for attempting to distribute, and aiding and abetting the distribution of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of a-PVP, knowing that the substance was intended for human consumption, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine, or both. In determining an actual sentence, the assigned U.S. district court judge will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges. The judge, however, is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.
A criminal complaint is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, with assistance from the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, the Mesa Police Department, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Surprise Police Department, the Tempe Police Department, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, and the Scottsdale Police Department. The prosecution is being handled by Don Pashayan and Marni Guerrero, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix.
CASE NUMBERS: 12-10350M, 12-10351M, 12-10352M
RELEASE NUMBER: 2012-181(Synthetic Drug Takedown)
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For more information on the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/az