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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 7, 2019

Postal Worker And Massachusetts Man Charged With Importing And Distributing Synthetic Cannabinoids

The Defendants Imported Large Quantities of Synthetic Cannabinoids from China and Supplied Retail Dealers throughout the United States

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”), Ruth M. Mendonça, Acting Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), and Angel M. Melendez, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced today that DANIEL BORER and JOSEPHINE McLAUGHLIN, who is an employee of the United States Postal Service, have been charged with importing synthetic cannabinoids from China and then using them to manufacture and distribute massive wholesale quantities of smokeable synthetic cannabinoids (“SSC”) throughout the United States.  Both defendants were arrested this morning, and will be presented this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge David H. Hennessey in Boston, Massachusetts.  The case has been assigned to United States District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald.  In addition, Mr. Berman announced today that JONATHAN RIENDEAU, who operated several websites on which he sold SSC, pled guilty and is cooperating with the Government.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Trafficking of synthetic cannabinoids – sometimes called K2 or Spice – 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, Daniel Borer and Josephine McLaughlin imported massive quantities of synthetic cannabinoids and distributed them in smokeable form to retail dealers throughout the United States.  Thanks to our law enforcement partners, Borer and McLaughlin have been arrested and their dangerous business has been dismantled.”

USPIS Acting Inspector in Charge Ruth M. Mendonça said:  “Josephine McLaughlin’s alleged violation of the employee code of conduct and ethics rules is appalling.  As an employee, she is entrusted to uphold the sanctity of the U.S. Mail and her alleged breach of trust has led to today’s arrest.  United States Postal Inspectors are committed to protecting the U.S. Mail and will ensure that those who violate this sanctity are brought to justice.”

HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Angel M. Melendez said:  “These two defendants are alleged to distribute large quantities of synthetic cannabinoids, a dangerous product that could affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana.  When it comes to a synthetic drug, it is rarely a harmless alternative.  Borer and McLaughlin are now out of business, making the communities we serve that much safer.”

NYPD Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said:  “Anyone who seeks to profit by selling so-called designer drugs on America’s streets can expect the full weight of local, state, and federal law enforcement to bear down upon them. In recent years, thousands of New York City emergency room visits have been linked to the use of synthetic marijuana. And in just one three-day period last May, dozens of people in northern Brooklyn were hospitalized as a result of a what was described as an especially toxic batch. As for this specific investigation, I commend all of the NYPD’s partners, whose primary mission is to fight crime and keep people safe. Together, we are relentless in bringing justice to those responsible for this nationwide scourge.”

According to the allegations in the Superseding Indictment[1]:

From at least February 2014 until February 2019, BORER and McLAUGHLIN operated a scheme to import synthetic cannabinoids from China and then use them to manufacture and distribute massive wholesale quantities of 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.

BORER and McLAUGHLIN shipped SSC, colloquially referred to as “K2” or “Spice,” through the U.S. Mail to locations throughout the Unitd States.  Some of the SSC distributed by the scheme were branded with colorful graphics and distinctive names, including “Dead Man Walking,” “Klimax,” “Zero Gravity,” “Twilite,” “Psycho,” and “Get Real.”  The branded SSC were sometimes marked “not for human consumption,” or “potpourri.”  Other of the SSC were distributed in bulk quantities. 

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On January 31, 2019, JONATHAN RIENDEAU, 38, of Port Saint Lucie, Florida, pled guilty before Judge Buchwald to six counts: three counts of conspiracy unlawfully to distribute controlled substances and controlled substance analogues; two counts of unlawful importation of controlled substances and controlled substance analogues; and one count of unlawfully distributing a controlled substance.  Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. 

BORER, 42, of Adams, Massachusetts, and McLAUGHLIN, 65, of Stoneham, Massachusetts, are each charged with three counts of conspiring unlawfully to import and distribute controlled substances and controlled substance analogues.  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 NYPD, USPIS, and HSI, and thanked the United States Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General, the Berkshire County (Massachusetts) Law Enforcement Taskforce, the Berkshire County (Massachusetts) District Attorney’s Office, and the Massachusetts State Police for their 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 Superseding 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 Superseding Indictment, and the description of the Superseding Indictment set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Updated February 8, 2019