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springfield, kirbyville men charged with k2 conspiracy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 17, 2013

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Springfield, Mo., man and a Kirbyville, Mo., man were charged in federal court today for their roles in a conspiracy to distribute synthetic marijuana, commonly referred to as K2.

Travis E. Butchee, 37, of Springfield, and Michael J. Saguto, 42, of Kirbyville, were charged with one count of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute a controlled substance analogue and one count of mail fraud in a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Springfield. Saguto remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing. An arrest warrant has been issued for Butchee, who is a fugitive from justice. The public’s assistance is being sought to locate Butchee.

Butchee opened The Man Cave, a retail business at 1927 S.Glenstone in Springfield, in February 2013. Butchee and Saguto are the owners of Southern Spice, LLC.

According to an affidavit filed in support of today’s federal criminal complaint, Southern Spice manufactured synthetic cannabinoids (under such labels as Red Eyed, Blazed, Donkey Punch, Jolly Grape Giant, South of the Tracks, Baby Face and Devilz Lettuce), which was distributed to several businesses for resale. Search warrants were executed from January to December 2012 at several businesses – including Doobies (at two Springfield locations), Zak’s Place in Springfield, Beer and Bottle liquor store in Hollister, Mo., and Big E’s in Lebanon, Mo. – at which law enforcement officers seized hundreds of packages of K2 manufactured by Southern Spice, which were being sold by the businesses.

The affidavit cites four undercover purchases of K2 from The Man Cave by law enforcement officers in April and May 2013.

On Thursday, May 16, 2013 law enforcement officers executed search warrants at the residences of Saguto and Butchee, as well as at a Merriam Woods residence owned by Butchee. At Saguto’s residence, officers seized the components of a synthetic cannabinoid manufacturing laboratory and a significant amount of cash contained in an ammo box. At the Merriam Woods residence, officers seized three five-gallon buckets containing a plant substance identified as synthetic cannabinoids as well as packages filled with a substance believed to be synthetic cannabinoids, which were labeled Hillbilly Hay.

Saguto received numerous parcels through the mail on a frequent basis, the affidavit says, including frequent international parcels. Many of the international parcels originated in China. Many of the chemicals used to manufacture synthetic cannabinoids are produced in and distributed from China. The affidavit cites one package from China that was intercepted by law enforcement officers. The package, which was delivered to Saguto’s residence, contained two foil bags, each with approximately one kilogram of a chemical compound used to manufacture synthetic marijuana.

According to the affidavit, a total of $169,859 in checks from various head shops, tattoo parlors and other businesses were deposited into the Southern Spice bank account between April 10 and Nov. 20, 2012. Money was wired by Southern Spice to accounts in Hong Kong and China. An analysis of transactions from this bank account, the affidavit says, also showed purchases of other herbal products that are typically used as the plant ingredient in K2.

Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this complaint 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 Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Oliver. It was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, FDA-Office of Criminal Investigation, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Springfield, Mo., Police Department, the DEA Task Force and the COMET (Combined Ozarks Multi-jurisdictional Enforcement Team) Task Force.

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.

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