Manhattan U.S. Attorney Charges Major Manufacturers And Distributors Of Synthetic Marijuana
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday July 26, 2012
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Wilbert L. Plummer, the Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), today announced charges against WILLIAM CHAVIS, JUSTIN GENSEL, VINCENT CASHMAN, and KEVIN MATHERSON for conspiring to distribute controlled substances. The defendants were allegedly manufacturing and distributing synthetic marijuana and other designer drugs through their businesses, BMS Distributors and Integrity Distributors. CHAVIS, GENSEL, and MATHERSON were arrested in Tampa, Florida, yesterday as part of a nationwide law enforcement action known as “Operation Log Jam,” targeted 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. They were presented in the Middle District of Florida. CASHMAN surrendered today and was presented in the Middle District of Florida this afternoon.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “The charges we are announcing today as part of ‘Operation Log Jam’ are great examples of law enforcement working together across the nation to wield the law’s might against a new, emerging danger to our citizenry, especially our children. The drugs may be synthetic but the danger is very real. As alleged, these defendants marketed their highly toxic synthetic marijuana as aromatic herbs, making it sound completely harmless, when in fact, it is a dangerous drug that can have serious health consequences. It is also an illegal drug, and as these defendants now know, marketing and distributing it can lead to serious consequences of a different sort.”
DEA Acting Special Agent-in-Charge for the New York Division Wilbert L. Plummer stated: “This national takedown is not just an enforcement action. It is an education awareness to parents about the dangers synthetic drugs. These drugs are illegal and they are deadly, thus law enforcement throughout the country has worked on identifying and dismantling the organizations that distribute them.”
According to the Complaint unsealed yesterday in Manhattan federal court:
Since 2011, the DEA has investigated the defendants and their businesses in connection with the manufacture and distribution of hundreds of pounds of substances containing synthetic drugs, sold in forms commonly referred to as synthetic marijuana. The defendants’ company, BMS Distributors, initially manufactured and shipped the synthetic marijuana from a warehouse in Tampa, Florida, but shifted its operations to a warehouse in Bay Shore, New York, in mid-2011. In early 2012, the manufacturing and distribution operations were again shifted back to Tampa, Florida, under the auspices of the defendants’ second company, Integrity Distributors. CHAVIS, GENSEL, and MATHERSON acted as owners and managers of both companies. The defendants and their companies used a website to sell the synthetic drugs, and paraphernalia for their use, to stores and individuals throughout the United States. CASHMAN was responsible for coordinating internet orders placed through the businesses’ website and shipments of the illicit products. The defendants marketed their products as aromatic or herbal incense and sold them in the form of packaged products labeled as, among other things, “Black Mamba,” “FIRE,” and “Mr. Spicy Green.” Seizures and undercover DEA purchases revealed that shipments from the defendants’ businesses contained UR-144, 5-MeO-DALT, and AM-2201, key components of synthetic marijuana. Undercover surveillance further showed that CHAVIS, GENSEL and MATHERSON also purchased large amounts of acetone, another critical ingredient in the chemical component of synthetic marijuana.
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CHAVIS, 29, of Seffner, Florida, GENSEL, 41, of Oldsmar, Florida, CASHMAN, 41, of Tampa, Florida, and MATHERSON, 41, of Tampa, Florida, are each charged with one count of conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. They face a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment and a maximum $1,000,000 fine.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the DEA New York Field Office. Operation Log Jam was conducted jointly by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with assistance from the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the FBI, and the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, as well as countless state and local law enforcement members in more than 90 U.S. cities and targeted every level of the synthetic designer drug industry, including retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers.
The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Fee is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment and the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.