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Press Release

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against Wholesale Distributor Of Spice And Flakka

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

            Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Carl J. Kotowski, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division (“DEA”), announced today that RICHARD GALIMI, 46, was arrested yesterday and charged in a criminal complaint for his role in distributing bulk quantities of synthetic cannabinoids, commonly known as “Spice,” and synthetic cathinones containing Alpha-PVP, commonly known as “Flakka.”  GALIMI arranged for the importation of synthetic controlled substances from China, arranged for them to be processed and packaged, and was responsible for the distribution of packets of Spice for individual use.  A search of a Brooklyn warehouse maintained by GALIMI resulted in the seizure of approximately 2,000 packets of pre-packaged Flakka and approximately 2,000 grams of pre-packaged Spice, as well as approximately 25 grams of bulk synthetic chemicals and 200 pounds of leafy substances that are used to manufacture Spice.

            GALIMI was arrested in Brooklyn and will be presented in Manhattan federal court today. 

            Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, Richard Galimi was responsible for the distribution of potentially lethal synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones.  Peddlers of these dangerous drugs – marketed as Spice and Flakka – target young people who are lured by the packaging and pricing.  But the product is always unsafe and it can be deadly.”

            According to the Complaint[1] and publicly available documents:

            Beginning in at least 2011, GALIMI made unsolicited phone calls to the owners of smoke shops in order to sell a powerful chemical Spice with the brand name “Hydro” to the smoke shop owners, which was then sold to retail customers.  Beginning in early 2015, GALIMI met with individuals cooperating with the DEA (the “CSs”) and began providing Spice and Flakka to the CSs.  During the course of the investigation, the DEA purchased approximately $6,500 worth of Spice and Flakka from GALIMI. 

            In order to manufacture the Spice, GALIMI arranged for leaves in bulk quantities to be brought to a warehouse in Brooklyn.  In the warehouse, GALIMI employed at least five individuals who were responsible for packaging the Spice in retail packages.  GALIMI also manufactured a synthetic cannabinoid that he marketed as being three times stronger than typical Spice.           

            In addition, GALIMI used brokers to import capsules of Flakka and packaging materials from China to New York via Hong Kong, using various forms of international mail services.  GALIMI was involved in importing approximately 3,000 capsules of Flakka to the United States on a regular basis. 

            Spice is the street name applied to a synthetic cannabinoid.  Spice is popular among teenagers and young adults, and is widely accessible because it is inexpensive and commonly sold at otherwise legitimate retail locations.  The colorful logos used on the Spice retail packets and the flavors used, such as lime, strawberry, and blueberry, make Spice attractive to teenagers and young adults.  The physical effects of Spice can include agitation, rapid heart rate, confusion, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, paranoia, panic attacks, and acute kidney injury.       

            Flakka is the street name applied to a synthetic cathinone that is a derivative of the synthetic drug commonly known as “bath salts.”  Flakka is intended to mimic the effects of an amphetamine.  Flakka can come in a rocky crystalline form and often comes in capsules.  Flakka typically contains Alpha-PVP, which is a Schedule I controlled substance.  Flakka is frequently sold to consumers in small packets that have colorful logos.  A tenth-gram quantity, or one standard dose, of Flakka typically sells for as little as $3.00.  The physical effects of Flakka can include aggression, paranoia, and hallucinations.

            After the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York charged 10 defendants involved in a Spice drug distribution ring in September 2015, Spice-related emergency room visits in New York City for the month of October 2015 were down 36 percent compared to their peak in July 2015, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

            GALIMI is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, which carries a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison.  The statutory maximum penalty is prescribed by Congress and is provided her for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.

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            U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara praised the outstanding work of the DEA’s New Jersey Division.            

            The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Noah Solowiejczyk is in charge of the prosecution. 

            The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


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

Updated November 25, 2015

Press Release Number: 15-305