Federal Indictment Charges Four in an International Conspiracy to Manufacture and Distribute Designer Drugs - Synthetic Cannabinoids and Cathinones
PORTLAND, Ore. - Amanda Marshall, U. S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, announced today the indictment of four individuals in connection with a long term drug-trafficking investigation led by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). On May 15, 2012, law enforcement officers from local and federal agencies arrested lead defendant Alexander Dimov, 33, on the island of Molokai in Hawaii. Dimov, a Bulgarian national currently in overstay status, appeared in federal court in Honolulu and was detained for transport to Oregon.
"This indictment marks a new era in combating narcotics trafficking by organizations which manufacture seemingly endless variations of synthetic substances in an effort to stay one step ahead of law enforcement," said U. S. Attorney Amanda Marshal. "In this District, we are very fortunate to have partner agencies - HSI, IRS, and the DEA - who are committed to stopping the distribution of these dangerous designer drugs."
During the coordinated takedown, HSI agents also arrested Ryan A. Scott, 31, at his residence in Vancouver, Washington. On May 16, 2012, Scott made his initial appearance in federal court in the District of Oregon where he was arraigned on the indictment, pled not guilty, and was released on conditions pending trial. Count one of the indictment alleges that Dimov, Scott and others conspired to manufacture and distribute the synthetic cannabinoid controlled substances JWH-018, JWH-073, various synthetic cannabinoid analogues, and the synthetic cathinones MDPV, 4-MEC, and 4-MMC. On March 1, 2011, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) exercised its emergency scheduling authority to control five chemicals (JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol). The Administrator of the DEA exercised the emergency scheduling powers based on a finding that the placement of these synthetic cannabinoids into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) was necessary to avoid an imminent hazard to the public safety. Schedule I is the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act, and it is reserved for those substances with a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use for treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.
Since early 2011, HSI and IRS agents, working closely with financial analysts from the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), have been investigating this conspiracy that has engaged in large-scale wholesale distribution of "K2." As alleged in the indictment, members of the conspiracy mixed chemical compounds together with herb extracts, and marketed the "K2" products as "incense." Additionally, the defendants used the internet to market and distribute "K2" and are alleged to have purchased dozens of domain names, including "k2drugs.com" and "k2incense.org" to obtain a monopoly on the market for K2. The investigation culminated on May 15, 2012, with the execution of search warrants at the defendants - residences and a warehouse in Vancouver, Washington, where agents seized hundreds of pounds of dried plant materials, packaging equipment, and chemicals.
"With these arrests, HSI has halted a multi-million dollar business that we believe was a threat to public health and safety," said Brad Bench, acting special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. "The public should be aware that these synthetic drugs are just as dangerous, and now just as illegal, as similar controlled substances."
"Individuals who manufacture and distribute synthetic drugs in an attempt to get around the law are not fooling law enforcement," said Kenneth J. Hines, the IRS Special Agent in Charge of the Pacific Northwest. "Illegal drugs are illegal drugs plain and simple. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to stop the flow of drugs that harm our communities."
The conspiracy count carries a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison and a fine of $1,000,000. The defendants are also charged with illegal importation, smuggling, distributing misbranded drugs, and money laundering. An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant should be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. Trial is set for July 10, 2012, in U.S. District Court.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah K. Bolstad.
For additional information, the attached indictment can be found at this link.