Seven Arrested in Synthetic Marijuana Conspiracy
MIDDLESEX COUNTY, Va. – Connie Rhoades Bowler, 47, of Gloucester, Virginia; Melody Rhoades Green, 52, of Topping, Virginia; John Stacey Rhoades, 41, of Hayes, Virginia; Brandon Bowler, 22, of Gloucester, Virginia; Robert Rhoades, 19, of Hayes, Virginia; Christopher Lowery, 29, of Farnham, Virginia; and Harrell Kenneth Stockwell, Jr., 54, of Gloucester, Virginia, were arrested yesterday on charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute smokeable synthetic cannabinoids (Schedule I controlled substances or analogues of Schedule I controlled substances) with intent for human consumption, and drug paraphernalia.
Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Scot R. Rittenberg, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington; and Thomas J. Kelly, Special Agent in Charge, Washington, D.C. Field Office, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, along with Sheriff David P. Bushey of Middlesex County, Virginia; Sheriff Stanley Clarke of Essex County, Virginia; Chief James G. Ashworth of the Tappahannock Police Department; and W. Steven Flaherty, Superintendent, Virginia State Police, made the announcement after the initial appearances of the defendants before United States Magistrate Judge David J. Novak.
Each of the defendants faces a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment if convicted of the conspiracy charge. Additionally, Connie Bowler, Melody Green and John Rhoades are charged with maintaining drug involved premises for the Slipknots Trading & Tobacco stores located in Topping and Tappahannock, Virginia. That charge also carries up to 20 years’ imprisonment.
According to the indictment, the seven defendants were engaged in a conspiracy to distribute various forms of synthetic cannabinoids from May 14, 2012 until February 18, 2014. In court proceedings today and in documents filed with the court, authorities allege that Connie Bowler, Melody Green and John Rhoades were the owners of Slipknots Trading & Tobacco, LLC, a tobacco store that sold smokeable synthetic cannabinoid (“SSC”) products, often commonly referred to as “Spice,” and items ranging from water pipes to rolling papers, used to smoke SSC. The documents assert that over the course of an 18-month investigation, law enforcement made numerous controlled purchases of SSC from the Slipknots stores in Topping and Tappahannock Virginia. It is alleged that although some of the SSC that the stores sold was not yet regulated, much of the SSC purchased was in fact illegal Schedule I controlled substances or Schedule I controlled substance analogues. The authorities allege that Slipknots Trading & Tobacco sold over $3 million of SSC product over an 18 month period of time.
The investigation was conducted by ICE-HSI, IRS, the VSP Tri-River Drug Task Force and special agents with the VSP Bureau of Criminal Investigations Richmond and Chesapeake Field Offices, the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, and the Tappahannock Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Olivia L. Norman is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
Indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.