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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 27, 2018

California And Florida Men Charged With Selling Synthetic Cannabinoids Over The Internet

The Defendants Shipped Drugs To All 50 States And Made More Than $1 Million

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, James P. O’Neill, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), Angel M. Melendez, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), and Peter R. Rendina, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), announced today that JONATHAN RIENDEAU and JADE PLANTE have been charged with operating websites that sold more than $1 million of synthetic cannabinoids throughout the United States.  Both defendants were arrested this morning.  RIENDEAU will be presented today in federal court in the Southern District of California.  PLANTE will be presented today in federal court in the Southern District of Florida.  The case has been assigned to United States District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Trafficking of synthetic cannabinoids – sometimes called K2 or Spice – is on the rise and poses a serious threat to public health and safety.  Packaged attractively to appeal to teenagers and young adults, synthetic cannabinoids are in reality a toxic cocktail that can be very dangerous to consume.  As alleged, Jonathan Riendeau and Jade Plante used the internet to peddle massive quantities of synthetic cannabinoids.  Thanks to our law enforcement partners, Riendeau and Plante have been arrested and their dangerous business has been dismantled.”

NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said:  “As NYPD detectives continue to do remarkable work in investigating those responsible for directing smokeable synthetic cannabinoids onto our streets – and the resulting scourge of related overdoses – we are grateful for the collaboration of our federal partners, whose reach and expertise greatly strengthens our impact on this crisis.  The composition of these toxic chemicals varies by batch, and the results of taking them are unpredictable. What is predictable, however, is our relentless investigation of anyone who produces or sells so-called ‘synthetic marijuana’ in New York City or anywhere else in America.”

HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Angel M. Melendez said:  “These individuals allegedly sold and distributed massive quantities of laced smokeable synthetic cannabinoids, throughout the country using the internet.  These arrests are so timely, considering amount of K2 related overdoses we have experienced here in New York City.  Law enforcement is full steam ahead on investigations to bring down those online drug dealers and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”

USPIS Inspector-in-Charge Peter R. Rendina said:  “Dealers in synthetic drugs never think of the lasting impact on the lives destroyed and the communities devastated by their greedy and illegal operation. Their only goal is to make money off of the users. Whether it be a clever name or packaging, these illegal operations will never go unnoticed by law enforcement.  Today’s arrests are a strong message to drug traffickers that Postal Inspectors and their law enforcement partners will spare no resource or expense to protect our customers and the sanctity of the U.S. Mail.”

According to the allegations in the Indictment[1]:

From February 2014 until June 2018, RIENDEAU and PLANTE operated a scheme to distribute massive quantities of smokeable synthetic cannabinoids (“SSC”), containing controlled substances and controlled substance analogues, throughout the United States.  SSC, which can be addictive, are often marketed as safe, legal alternatives to marijuana.  In fact, SSC are not safe and may affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana; their actual effects can be unpredictable and, in some cases, more dangerous or even life-threatening.

RIENDEAU and PLANTE operated three different websites on which they sold SSC, colloquially referred to as “K2” or “Spice,” which included dried, shredded plant material onto which synthetic cannabinoid chemicals had been sprayed, and liquids containing synthetic cannabinoid chemicals for users to vaporize and inhale with e-cigarettes or other similar devices.  The SSC distributed by the scheme were branded with colorful graphics and distinctive names, including “Dead Man Walking,” “Brainfreeze,” “Klimax,” “Twilite,” “Delirium,” “Purple Haze,” “Diablo,” “AK-47,” “ScoobySnax,” “F*cking Crazy,” and “Dafuq.”  Many of the SSC were marketed as having flavors, including chocolate, apple, and strawberry.  The SSC were sometimes marked “not for human consumption,” or “potpourri.”

Over the course of the scheme, RIENDEAU and PLANTE shipped approximately 6,000 packages of SSC through the United States mail to customers throughout the U.S., including locations in Manhattan, the Bronx, and all 50 states, containing a total of more than 120 kilograms of SSC.  RIENDEAU and PLANTE were paid more than $1 million for SSC in the course of the scheme.

*                      *                      *

RIENDEAU, 38, of San Diego, California, is charged with three counts of conspiring to distribute narcotics.  PLANTE, 39, of Port Saint Lucie, Florida, is charged with one count of conspiring to distribute narcotics.  Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.  

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of HSI, USPIS, and the NYPD, and thanked the Drug Enforcement Administration for its assistance.  The long-term investigation of this case was partially funded by the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (“HIDTA”), which is a federally funded crime fighting initiative and part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Narcotics Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Robert B. Sobelman is in charge of the prosecution. 

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

[1]   As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment, and the description of the Indictment set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 
18-212
Updated June 27, 2018