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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Men Sentenced to Combined 60 Years for Selling Spice in Hampton Roads

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Two men who led a $21 million spice manufacturing and distribution conspiracy were sentenced today to 32 years and 28 years in prison, respectively. Both men were also ordered to forfeit $6.5 million.

Charles Burton Ritchie, 46, and Benjamin Galecki, 42, both of Pensacola, Florida, were convicted by a federal jury on January 23. According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Ritchie and Galecki operated Zencense, a Pensacola-based company that manufactured smokable synthetic cannabinoids, commonly known as “spice,” throughout 2012. Ritchie and Galecki’s company gave their spice blends such names as Bizarro, Neutronium, Orgazmo, and Sonic Zero. Their products contained XLR-11 and UR-144, which at that time were analogues of JWH-018, a Schedule I controlled substance. In December 2012, Ritchie and Galecki purported to sell their company to a third party in California, though they continued to exercise control over the company into 2013. The new company’s name was ZenBio.

Between August 2012 and April 2013, Zencense and ZenBio shipped a total of approximately 1,000 kilograms of spice to the Hampton Roads area. Zencense and ZenBio spice was sold at Hampton Pipe and Tobacco, a headshop in Hampton, as well as at the Red Barn, a convenience store in Newport News, among other locations.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Michael K. Lamonea, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Norfolk; Robert B. Wemyss, Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Mark S. McCormack, Special Agent in Charge, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, Metro Washington Field Office; Colonel Kirk B. Stabler, Commander of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations; Terry L. Sult, Chief of Hampton Police Division; Richard W. Myers, Chief of Newport News Police; and Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric Hurt and Kevin Hudson prosecuted the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 4:15-cr-18.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Contact: 
Joshua Stueve Director of Communications joshua.stueve@usdoj.gov
Updated May 31, 2017