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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fresno County Sheriff’s Office’s Contribution To The Mission Of The U.S. Attorney’s Office And Department Of Justice Recognized

FRESNO, Calif. — United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner is pleased to announce the 2014 winner of the Eastern District of California Law Enforcement Award for the Fresno Division’s Outstanding Law Enforcement Agency. This award is one of four awards presented annually to a law enforcement agency and an officer in each of the Sacramento and Fresno divisions of the Eastern District of California to recognize outstanding collaboration between federal state and local law enforcement in addressing public safety issues in this region. Other winners of the 2014 United States Attorney’s Office-Eastern District of California Law Enforcement Awards will be announced at a later date.

The winner of Fresno Division’s Outstanding Law Enforcement Agency Award is the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office for their invaluable contribution to an investigation into a major national drug trafficking organization that manufactured and sold synthetic drugs. Synthetic drugs, including synthetic cannabinoids, are illegal and unregulated, and can be highly dangerous. There have been numerous reports of consumers being seriously harmed or even dying as a result of ingesting synthetic cannabinoids.

U.S. Attorney Wagner stated: “Congratulations to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office on being chosen for this award for their efforts to address an emerging public safety threat. Sheriff’s detectives recognized the significance of a seizure of 12 kilograms of synthetic cannabinoids and contacted federal authorities. The Fresno Sheriff’s Office partnered with federal agencies throughout the intensive long-term investigation that followed. As a result, we were able to identify key members of the organization and dismantle it.”

Narcotics detectives conducted several undercover purchases from head shops in the Fresno area that were distributing synthetic cannabinoids. They worked closely with federal law enforcement agents to investigate a network of persons and businesses that were producing the substances and selling them across the country. The Sheriff’s Office also participated in a nationwide takedown targeting synthetic drug traffickers in June 2013. That effort included multiple search warrants and the seizures of large quantities of illegal substances, cash, and assets.

The investigation focused on Victor Nottoli, who pleaded guilty in federal court here in Fresno in May of last year to conspiracy and causing at least 24 tons of misbranded synthetic cannabinoids to be introduced into interstate commerce. Over $6.4 million in cash and nearly $200,000 worth of other assets were seized. He is expected to be sentenced to federal prison in the near future.

In related cases arising from the investigation, four more persons were indicted on federal felonies in this district last year, and to date, five persons have pleaded guilty to federal felonies in the Southern District of Alabama, one has pleaded guilty in the Southern District of New York, and another has been indicted in the District of Arizona. More federal prosecutions are expected.
Updated April 8, 2015