Operation Smoke and Mirrors Update: Kanawha County Man Sentenced to Prison for Role in Methamphetamine Trafficking Organization
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – United States Attorney Mike Stuart announced that yesterday Eugene “Gene” Asbury, 70, and Natasha “Tess” Clonch, 33, of Gallipolis Ferry were each sentenced to 63 months in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute synthetic cannabinoids. Stuart praised the investigative work of the West Virginia State Police and the United States Postal Inspection Service.
“Asbury and Clonch were selling extremely dangerous illegal synthetics,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart, “and making major bank from selling drugs. I believe in holding folks accountable for their actions. In this case that means prison PLUS the $1.6 million judgment PLUS forfeiting every single asset gained through their druggie activities. Poison peddlers engage in selling drugs to make money and, when we catch them, I’ll do all I can to take every single penny.”
Asbury and Clonch pled guilty in August 2017, admitting that between July 2013 and January 2016 they had been selling Schedule I controlled substances and controlled substance analogues from a retail store they operated on Huntington Road in Mason County called “Pipes and More” or “The Scent Shop.” The synthetics were sold under various brand names including “Earthquake,” “Heaven’s Grass,” Get Real,” “Scooby Snax,” “ Super Kush,” and “Mister Nice Guy.”
In January 2016, after making several controlled purchases of synthetics, police executed federal search warrants at the couple’s residence, “The Scent Shop,” and another of their businesses, the “Rt. 35 Adult Video and Bookstore.” Police seized more than 2.5kg of synthetics and approximately $30,000 cash. Approximately $159,000 was seized from the couple’s bank accounts. Financial records revealed that Asbury and Clonch purchased the synthetics from a wholesaler in California using money orders totaling more than $258,000. The defendants admitted that they made approximately $1.6 million by selling the synthetics.
As part of their plea agreements, Asbury and Clonch agreed to forfeit $189,090 in seized money, a restored 1952 Oldsmobile, a restored 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, unimproved real estate, and the imposition of a $1.6 million money judgment. They admitted that these assets represented the proceeds of their drug trafficking activities.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Hanks handled the prosecution. United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers imposed the sentence.