Company Owner Admits to Supplying Butane to Make Illegal Hash Oil
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew J. Galvin (619) 546-9721
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – February 9, 2017
SAN DIEGO – The owner of a large butane supply company pleaded guilty to a drug charge today, admitting that his company illegally sold thousands of butane canisters to smoke shops, knowing that some of the butane would be used to illegally manufacture hash oil.
Bosco Kwon, the owner of BK Power Imports, Inc., admitted in his plea agreement that he knew the manufacture of hash oil, a marijuana concentrate, poses a significant risk of fires and explosions.
As part of his plea agreement, Kwon agreed to forfeit $1,026,614 and over 94,152 canisters of butane. Sentencing is scheduled for April 28, 2017 at 9 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino.
Kwon pleaded guilty to a single count of selling drug paraphernalia. The Los Angeles-based business, which sold Power-branded butane, was the nation’s largest supplier of butane specifically designed for use in making hash oil.
Butane Hash Oil (BHO) is a marijuana concentrate, which is a Schedule I controlled substance. The manufacture of BHO is a violation of federal law, Title 21, US Code, Section 841. The manufacture of BHO is also a violation of California state law, Health and Safety Code, Section 11379.6
BHO is similar in appearance to honey or butter. It contains extremely high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and can be up to four times more potent than high grade marijuana. BHO is commonly manufactured by packing marijuana into a glass, plastic, or metal tube. Butane is then sprayed into the top of the tube. The butane strips the marijuana of its cannabinoid-containing oils, which drip from the bottom of the tube, often through a filter and into a holding container. The end product is highly-profitable and can be ingested as an oil, consumed in edibles, or solidified to make concentrated forms of cannabis known as “wax.”
According to admissions in Kwon’s plea agreement, BK Power Imports sold its butane to wholesalers and retailers in San Diego County and throughout the United States, including smoke shops “Greener Side of Life,” “Marry Jane House of Glass Inc,” “Twilight Zone,” “Smoke Tokes Inc,” “Puff and Stuff,” “Cali Kulture-Magic Glass,” and “The Grow Shop.” The butane was sold under the brand names Power, Power 5x, Power 7x, Power 9x, and Power 11x. Kwon imported in excess of 350,000 canisters of butane into the United States every month.
During the manufacture of BHO, butane, a flammable gas that is odorless, colorless, and heavier than air, can evaporate out of the substance and collect on the floor, accumulating to explosive levels without proper ventilation. This process creates an invisible, but very real, risk of fires, explosions, and chemical burns.
Since 2011, the manufacture of hash oil using Power butane has caused at least 54 fires and explosions, 29 serious injuries, and four deaths in California, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington, according to Homeland Security Investigations agents. In 2015, BK Power Imports and Kwon were sued because of an explosion and fire that occurred while two individuals made hash oil using Power butane. One of the individuals died while the other suffered third-degree and full-thickness burns over 40 percent of his body that kept him in an intensive care unit for nearly two months. Despite this lawsuit, Kwon continued to sell Power butane.
“Whatever one believes about marijuana use, the manufacture of hash oil is an extremely dangerous process and puts lives in danger,” said U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson. “We will do everything we can to safeguard the public.”
“Hash oil manufactured with butane gas has led to an alarming number of explosions and fires in recent years,” said Dave Shaw, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego. “HSI is committed to targeting the supply chains where butane gas is sold on the black market for use in hash oil labs. By going after the supply chains and the illicit proceeds, we are able to dismantle the distribution networks, which is a critical step toward shutting down a dangerous epidemic that has put the public’s safety in harm’s way for too long.”
This investigation follows the successful prosecution of the owners of the Newport Beach-based business Puretane. In that case, Puretane’s Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer admitted that they conspired to launder the proceeds of their illegal butane business. With these prosecutions, Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California have shut down the nation’s two leading suppliers of butane designed for use in making hash oil.
DEFENDANT: Case Number 17CR331-JLS
Bosco Kwon Age: 53 La Habra, CA
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Sale of Drug Paraphernalia – Title 21, U.S.C., Section 863
Maximum penalty: Three years in prison and $250,000 fine
Homeland Security Investigations
*Reporters interested in interviews may contact Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Galvin, at (619) 546-9721, or ICE PAO Lauren Mack at 619 719 7921.