Grand Jury Returns Indictment Charging Fourteen Individuals With Conspiracy To Distribute Spice, Money Laundering
SALT LAKE CITY – A federal grand jury returned an indictment Tuesday charging 14 individuals with conspiracy to distribute spice in connection with a nationwide law enforcement operation targeting synthetic drug trafficking organizations. Nine defendants are also charged with money laundering in the indictment, which includes one conspiracy count and 10 counts of money laundering.
The indictment also includes a notice of intent to seek the forfeiture real property located in Hurricane, Heber City, and Spanish Fork; funds from several bank accounts; money orders; and vehicles.
Charged in the Utah indictment are Brian Merrill, age 28, of Hurricane; Joshua Davis, age 37, of Hurricane; Buck Andersen, age 33, of St. George; Joseph Givogre, age 42, of Washington; Gary Jolley, age 58, of St. George; Alicia Brandom, age 31, of Hurricane; Curtis McOsker, age 40, of Las Vegas, a former resident of Santa Clara; Malin Pavelka, age 34, of St. George; Jennifer Barlow, age 22, of St. George; Richard Lewis, age 61, of St. George; David Flores, age 32, of West Jordan; James Hardwick, age 27, of South Jordan; David Carter, age 33, of Spanish Fork; and Becky Young, age 36, of West Jordan.
The Utah case is a part of “Project Synergy,” a national initiative which includes cases led by DEA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); IRS-Criminal Investigation; and the FBI. The operation was announced in late June.
The investigation in Utah started when Illinois law enforcement officers, conducting a Spice investigation connected to a chain of smoke shops, found 9,644 packets of Spice which appeared to have been shipped to Illinois from St. George. The Spice packets were marketed under brands called “Gods of Spice” and “Blue Heaven.” Based on the information from Illinois officials, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in the St. George area, including the DEA, IRS-Criminal Investigation, HSI, BLM, the Washington County Drug Task Force, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the St. George Police Department, and the Hurricane Police Department launched an investigation.
Independent of the investigation launched by the information from Illinois, HSI agents seized two packages of Spice chemicals coming into the country to co-conspirators in the case, including a shipment from China.
The indictment alleges that from about March 2011 through about June 2013, the defendants conspired with each other and with other persons to distribute spice. The money laundering counts charge several of the defendants with engaging in monetary transactions involving property derived from an unlawful activity – which in this case is conspiracy to unlawfully distribute a controlled substance.
Davis, Carter, Givogre, and Flores are in custody. Andersen, Hardwick, and Jolley have been in custody since their arrest, but were released following a detention hearing Monday afternoon. Merrill, Brandom, Pavelka, Barlow, Lewis, and Young were released on conditions of supervised release following their arrest last month. McOsker has not been arrested.
Defendants in the case are scheduled for an arraignment on the indictment on Aug. 5, 2013, at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert T. Braithwaite in St. George. The potential maximum penalty for the conspiracy count is 20 years in federal prison and a fine of $1 million. Each count of money laundering carries a potential 10-year penalty and a fine of $250,000.
Indictments are not findings of guilt. Individuals charged in indictments are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in court.