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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Two Florida Brothers Sentenced To 84 Months In Prison For Bath Salts And Money Laundering Conspiracies In Eastern Tennessee

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. – Michael Loren Sheaffer, 35, of Pinellas Park, Fla., and Matthew Shawn Sheaffer, 35, of Holiday, Fla., were both sentenced on Jan. 27, 2016, by the Honorable J. Ronnie Greer, U.S. District Court Judge, to each serve 84 months in federal prison.  Both Sheaffers were previously convicted of conspiracy to distribute, and possess with the intent to distribute, assorted Schedule I controlled substances and their analogues; and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  There is no parole in the federal system. 

Beginning in the summer of 2010, the Sheaffers began an elaborate criminal business of procuring, marketing, packaging, and distributing massive amounts of Schedule I controlled substances and corresponding analogues.  Collectively, these drugs are commonly referred to as bath salts, spice, and synthetic marijuana.  However, those names are misnomers used to lure consumers and avoid criminal liability.  In reality, such substances are nothing more than hard drugs masquerading as harmless chemicals. 

Utilizing a website and a network of distributors, the Sheaffers sold these drugs throughout the southeastern United States and elsewhere.  A large portion of the contraband was distributed from head shops and businesses within the Eastern District of Tennessee.  The resulting proceeds were then laundered, funneled back to the Sheaffers and other co-conspirators, and used to further perpetuate their drugs crimes.

A total of five individuals were charged in this case including:  Mitchel Lee Chambers, 36, of Magnolia, Tex., who was sentenced to serve 87 months; Niki Lyn Maxwell, 33, of New Port Richey, Fla., who was sentenced to serve 54 months; and, Gretchen Elizabeth Sheaffer, 30, of Pinellas Park, Fla., who was sentenced to serve 54 months. 

Acting U.S. Attorney Nancy Stallard Harr said, “Northeast Tennessee has been particularly hard hit by these dangerous, so-called synthetic, drugs. Thanks to the teamwork of our law enforcement partners in the Kingsport Police Department, Sullivan County Sheriff’s office, and Johnson City Police Department, as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI), we were able to react swiftly and decisively to stem the flow of these harmful substances which have no legitimate or legal purpose.”

“The role of Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service in narcotics investigations is to follow the money so we can financially disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations,” stated Tamera Cantu, Acting Special Agent in Charge, IRS-CI. “This investigation is a great example of how the various law enforcement agencies in this district work together, and these sentences should send a clear message that drug and money laundering violations are serious crimes that will be punished accordingly.” 

This investigation was the product of a partnership between the Kingsport, Tennessee Police Department, Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department, Johnson City Police Department, IRS-CI, and DEA.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys M. Neil Smith and Nick Regalia represented the United States. 

The investigation is a result of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”) program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s drug supply reduction strategy.  OCDETF was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.  Today, OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement.  The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply. 

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Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Updated January 27, 2016