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Press Release

Two Local Men Sentenced on Synthetic Drug Trafficking Charges

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

St. Louis, MO – The two leaders of a multi-defendant synthetic drug trafficking conspiracy were sentenced today in federal court in St. Louis.  Anwer Rao, O’Fallon, IIllinois, was sentenced to 150 months in prison; and Michael Lentsch, also of O’Fallon, Illinois, was sentenced to 150 months in prison.  Both appeared before United States District Judge John A. Ross.

The manufacture of synthetic drugs is a recent development designed to circumvent traditional drug laws by creating new chemical compounds that mimic the effects of drugs like marijuana and cocaine but purport to avoid the classification of a controlled substance because of a chemical alteration. The synthetic drugs are most frequently marketed as legitimate products and sold in typical commercial outlets such as convenience stores and gas stations.  The drugs masquerade as incense, potpourri, glass cleaner, bath salts and plant food, just to name a few; their cost however is much higher than the normal commercial product they mimic.

One group of synthetic drugs is made up of cathinones, and is a “speed” type drug commonly marketed as bath salts.  The synthetic cathinones are typically snorted, and are packaged in containers with names such as Full Throttle, Fresh, Limited, Starry Nights, Twisted, Pump It and Blitz.  Rao and Lentsch manufactured and marketed cathinones under the name “Go Go.”  Reported effects have included hypertension, paranoia, anxiety and even psychosis.

Another group of synthetic drugs is made from synthetic cannabinoids which are a far more powerful and unpredictable form of marijuana.  The cannabinoids are typically smoked and are packaged in multi-gram packets with names such as Mega Kush, Mad Hatter, Bayou Blaster, Avalon, Pirates Booty, Lights Out and Golden Leaf.  Rao and Lentsch manufactured and marketed their own blends of synthetic cannabinoids under the names “Mad Hatter,” “Deew.” “Cloud 9 Optima,” “Crazy Eyes,” and “Primo.”  Although commonly referred to as synthetic marijuana, the effects are far more powerful and dangerous than so-called natural marijuana, with reported additional effects, including excessive heart rate, vomiting and seizures.

These sentencing’s were part of a multi-defendant case charging offenses involving the importation, manufacturing and sale of these synthetic drugs.  Several co-defendants have pled guilty to related charges and await sentencing.  Others are still facing trial on charges including:  a) conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute Schedule I controlled substances and Schedule I controlled substance analogues; b) conspiracy to introduced an receive misbranded drugs in interstate commerce; c) conspiracy to import controlled substances and controlled substance analogues; d) conspiracy to receive, sell and facilitate the transportation of smuggled goods with forfeiture allegations; and e) money laundering counts. 

The drug conspiracy charges and money laundering conspiracy charges carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison for each count and/or fines ranging from $500,000 to $1,000,000.  In determining the actual sentences, a Judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.  Additionally, the indictments seek forfeiture of assets and property totaling more than $12 million dollars. 

This case was investigated by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Postal Inspection Service.  Additional assistance was received from the St. Louis County Police Department, St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department, Missouri Lake Area Narcotics Enforcement Group, Metropolitan Enforcement Group for Southern Illinois, Southern Illinois Drug Task Force, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, as well as the prosecuting attorney offices in St. Louis County, Missouri, St. Charles County, Missouri, Madison County, Illinois and St. Clair County, Missouri.  Assistant United States Attorneys James Delworth, Erin Granger, Jennifer Winfield and John Mantovani are handling the cases for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

As is always the case, charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt.  The remaining defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.    

Updated February 22, 2016

Drug Trafficking