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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Ohio

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 29, 2016

Grafton couple who owned head shop chain sentenced to prison for distributing synthetic cannabinoids known as spice

A Grafton couple who owned a chain of head shops were sentenced to prison for conspiring to distribute synthetic cannabinoids known as spice, law enforcement officials said.

Sean Lightner, 41, was sentenced to three years in prison while Sherry Lightner, 40, was sentenced to two years in prison.

Nathan Albright, 30, of Glendale, Arizona, was sentenced earlier this month to two years in prison.

All three previously pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance analogue, as well as engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity.

“This couple operated stores throughout the state to sell dangerous synthetic drugs to anyone who walked through the front door,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Carole Rendon. “They knew what they were doing was illegal.”

"This is an important victory for the residents of Northern Ohio.  Not only are criminals going to jail for their crimes, but the government has seized a significant portion of the illegal proceeds through asset forfeiture,” said Kathy A. Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office. “The laundering of illegal drug profits is as important and essential to drug traffickers as the very distribution of their illegal drugs.  Without these ill-gotten gains, the traffickers could not finance their organizations.”

Dale Drummond, 41, of Cleveland, and Mark Picard, 34, of Whittier, Calif., have pleaded guilty to their roles in the case and are awaiting sentencing.

Synthetic cannabinoids are a large family of chemically unrelated structures functionally similar to THC. Synthetic cannabinoids may contain Schedule I controlled substances or controlled substance analogues and have purported physchotropic effects when smoked or ingested.

The Lightners operated a chain of head shops -- retail stores specializing in drug and smoking paraphernalia -- doing business as Twilight Boutique, where they sold synthetic cannabinoids along with accessories such as bongs, pipes and rolling papers, according to court documents.

They franchised the Twilight Boutique on Madison Avenue in Lakewood to Drummond for a percentage of the store’s monthly revenue. Drummond also sold synthetic cannabinoids from the store, according to the court documents.

The Lightners expanded their business to include several locations in Ohio after they began selling synthetic cannabinoids. They controlled Twilight Corp., located on Royalton Road in Grafton, and the Twilight Boutique stores located on State Route 43 in Streetsboro, Cleveland Road West in Sandusky, Pearl Road in Brunswick, North Abbe Road in Elyria, Lorain Road in Fairview Park, Whipple Avenue in Plain Township, North Court Street in Athens, Midway Plaza in Tallmadge, South Alex Road in West Carrollton, West Fourth Street in Ontario and Clinton Plaza Drive in Oneonta, N.Y., according to court documents.

The Lightners presented laboratory reports to others, including employees, alleging that the synthetic cannabinoids sold in the Twilight Boutique stores did not contain controlled substances or controlled substance analogues in an effort to give the appearance that the synthetic cannabinoids were legal when the Lightners knew they were illegal, according to court documents.

Albright manufactured and sold synthetic cannabinoids through his company, Desert Distribution, LLC and Albright and Picard sold synthetic cannabinoids through their company, Royal Dutch, LLC.

Prosecutors forfeited nearly $400,000 in cash as well as several firearms and automobiles as part of the case.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Carmen Henderson, Teresa Dirksen and Christian M. Stickan following an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration -- Tactical Diversion Squad, Internal Revenue Service -- Criminal Investigations, Lorain County Drug Task Force, Medina County Drug Task Force, Portage County Drug Task Force, Westshore Enforcement Bureau, MEDWAY Drug Enforcement Agency, METRICH Enforcement Unit, Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, Linndale Police Department, Lakewood Police Department, Cleveland Police Department, Ontario Police Department, Sandusky Police Department, Ohio HIDTA and the Ohio State Patrol.

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Updated April 29, 2016