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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mitchell Lee Chambers Sentenced To Serve 87 Months In Prison For Conspiracy To Distribute Synthetic Drugs

Defendant Supplied Tri-Cities Businesses With “Fake Weed”

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. – Mitchell Lee Chambers, 36, of Magnolia, Tex., formerly of Clearwater, Fla., was sentenced on Nov. 23, 2015, by the Honorable J. Ronnie Greer, U.S. District Court Judge, to serve 87 months in federal prison.  He was also ordered to forfeit approximately $500,000 in assets and serve three years of supervised release following his term in prison.

Chambers pleaded guilty in August 2015 to charges in a December 2014 indictment including conspiracy to distribute controlled substance analogues intended for human consumption and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  He, along with Clearwater area residents Michael Sheaffer and Matthew Sheaffer, and their wives Gretchen Sheaffer and Niki Maxwell, conspired to distribute controlled substance analogues intended for human consumption as well as conduct financial transactions in the proceeds of the drug trafficking to promote the distribution of the synthetic drugs. 

Chambers became involved in the sale of smokable synthetic cannabinoid products while residing in Atlanta in 2010. He formed a business called “Satchel Services” to market “incense” and “fake weed” products.  The products consisted of a smokable plant material, often the plant damiana, on which synthetic cannabinoids had been sprayed.  Chambers sold the products to the Sheaffers, who in turn re-sold the products to retail distributors in upper east Tennessee and elsewhere.  The products contained cannabimimetic agents commonly referred to as bath salts. These chemicals were classified as Schedule I controlled substances in March 2011.  Chambers ordered the raw chemicals in bulk from sources in China, Europe, and elsewhere.

In approximately August 2011, Chambers moved from Atlanta to the Clearwater area to join the Sheaffers in their activities.  Michael Sheaffer, Matthew Sheaffer and Chambers agreed to form a business called “Zombie International.” Zombie International continued to use the Internet, phone calls and text messages to receive orders for controlled substance analogues intended for human consumption.  In addition to products which were labeled “Zombie” and “Zombie Killa,” Zombie International also sold a product in early 2012 labeled “Zombie Dust” which contained the controlled substance analogue ά-PVP (also known as “gravel” or “flakka”).  Chambers and the Sheaffers agreed to use funds obtained from the sale of controlled substance analogues intended for human consumption to purchase additional analogues from sources in China and Europe.

While many believed that synthetic marijuana products were less harmful than other drugs, such products have been shown to result in extreme paranoia and psychoses; agitated and violent behavior; and elevated heart rates, blood pressure, and body temperatures.  Other adverse effects include excited delirium, acute kidney injury, seizures, psychosis, hallucinations, cardiotoxic effects, coma, and death.  Medical treatment for the users of such drugs is complicated because there are no available antidotes, such as for opioid overdoses, and physicians often do not know what substance is involved.  Synthetic marijuana products are often targeted at teenagers and young adults with colorful packaging with cartoon characters.  A study by the Center for Substance Abuse Research identified synthetic marijuana as the third most reported substance used by U.S. high school students after alcohol and marijuana.

Agencies involved in this investigation included the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, Bristol Tennessee and Virginia Police Departments, Kingsport Police Department, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Johnson City Police Department, the First and Second Judicial District Drug Task Forces, and the Clearwater, Florida Police Department.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Smith represented the United States.

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Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Updated November 24, 2015