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Press Release

Southern California Man Enters Guilty Plea in Connection with Prison “Spice” Smuggling Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. — James Steven Harris, aka Steve Harris, 45, of Loma Linda, pleaded guilty today in connection with his involvement in smuggling smokable synthetic cannabinoids into prison, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

Steve Harris pleaded guilty to two counts of making false statements on Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) visitor forms that he was not in possession of contraband, knowing that he was in possession of “spice,” a smokable synthetic cannabinoid containing XLR11. Steve Harris acknowledged that on one occasion he successfully smuggled 15.5 grams of XLR11 into the federal prison at Taft for his brother Tracy McArthur Harris, aka Trey Harris, 42, an inmate, and later attempted to smuggle 34.3 grams of XLR11, along with four packages of rolling papers, into the prison.

Synthetic cannabinoids, commonly known as “spice” or “K2,” refer to a family of substances that act on the brain in a manner similar to delta-9 THC, the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the effects of synthetic cannabinoid usage can be life-threatening and can include: severe agitation and anxiety; fast, racing heartbeat; nausea and vomiting; muscle spasms, seizures, and tremors; psychotic episodes; and suicidal and thoughts or actions.

Steve Harris is scheduled for sentencing on October 26, 2015, before Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, as to each count. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Tracy Harris was subject to a prison disciplinary proceeding which added more time to his current 11-year prison term. He was also sentenced last month by Judge Ishii to a consecutive one year prison term for his involvement in obtaining the smokable synthetic cannabinoids from his brother.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Investigative Supervisor’s Office of Taft Correctional Institution. Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.

Updated August 10, 2015

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 1:14-cr-190 AWI