SCRANTON—The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that John Verkitus, age 56, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Malachy E. Mannion to unlawfully importing synthetic cannabinoids from China between November 2015 and September 2016.
According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, Verkitus admitted to ordering via the internet and receiving parcels containing synthetic cannabinoids on a monthly basis. In September 2016, postal inspectors intercepted two parcels from Hong Kong and Guangdong, China, intended for Verkitus, and a subsequent court-authorized search revealed that the parcels contained synthetic cannabinoids. The parcels were labeled as “plastic accessories” and “car tools kits” to disguise their true contents.
Judge Mannion ordered a presentence investigation to be completed. Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Postal Service, and Scranton Police. Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis P. Sempa is prosecuting the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program that has been historically successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice has made turning the tide of rising violent crime in America a top priority. In October 2017, as part of a series of actions to address this crime trend, Attorney General Sessions announced the reinvigoration of PSN and directed all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to develop a district crime reduction strategy that incorporates the lessons learned since PSN launched in 2001.
The maximum penalty under federal law for this offense is 20 years in prison, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.
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