California Man Pleads Giulty to $6.6 Million K2 Conspiracy in Callaway County
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Tom Larson, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a Sacramento, Calif., man pleaded guilty in federal court today to his role in drug-trafficking and money-laundering conspiracies related to the distribution of more than $6.6 million of synthetic cannabinoids, also known as K2, at Callaway County, Mo., businesses.
Michael James Butler, 40, of Sacramento, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Matt J. Whitworth to the charges contained in an April 20, 2016, federal indictment.
By pleading guilty today, Butler admitted that he participated in a mail fraud conspiracy from Dec. 18, 2012, to July 16, 2015, and participated in a money-laundering conspiracy during that time; both conspiracies were related to the distribution of synthetic cannabinoids.
According to court documents, the drug-trafficking conspiracy generated $6,656,843 in gross proceeds. Butler acknowledged today that his conduct directly contributed to the generation of approximately $753,688 of that total; under the terms of today’s plea agreement, he must forfeit a money judgment of that amount to the government.
Butler managed a co-conspirator’s company that was used to send FedEx packages containing synthetic cannabinoids to wholesale customers at various locations in the United States. Butler also established and controlled another company, Butler-Whayne Industries, LLC. Although Butler-Whayne Industries was ostensibly in the business of selling Xboxes, Playstations, games and accessories, Butler admitted that the company sent packages containing synthetic cannabinoids to locations in Callaway County, including Inscentives Resale in Auxvasse and Fulton and Esscentials/S&J Tobacco in Holts Summit.
Butler is among eight co-defendants who have pleaded guilty in this case. Shawn Michael Browning, 26, Timothy Christopher Sandfort, 31, Brandon Derek Rader, 32, and Joshua Adam Sheets, 31, all of Fulton, pleaded guilty to the same charges.
Dara Leanne Shirley, 30, of Fulton, pleaded guilty to participating in the money-laundering conspiracy. Casey Dewayne Miller, 32, of Columbia, and Billie L. Bruce, 36, of Jefferson City, each pleaded guilty to distributing synthetic cannabinoids.
Sandfort, Rader, Shirley, Miller and others operated First Stop Last Stop Pawn & Aromatherapy, Inscentives Resale and Inscentives Auto. First Stop Last Stop Pawn & Aromatherapy represented itself as a “pawn shop” and “potpourri store.” Inscentives Resale was represented to be a “buy, sell, and trade business.” Inscentives Auto held a Missouri motor vehicle dealer’s license. Browning, Sheets, Bruce and others operated Esscentials Resale and S&J Tobacco.
These businesses purchased synthetic cannabinoids from Butler and other co-conspirators in California and Nevada. At least 251 shipments of synthetic cannabinoids were made via FedEx and UPS. Inscentives Resale sold synthetic cannabinoids from locations in Auxvasse and Fulton. Esscentials Resale and S&J Tobacco sold synthetic cannabinoids from locations in Holts Summit.
The packages of synthetic cannabinoids bore misbranded labels that misidentified the contents as “incense,” “aroma therapy” or “potpourri” that were “not for human consumption.” In fact, these products were drugs intended for human consumption as a drug. Conspirators mislabeled packages of synthetic cannabinoids for the purpose of avoiding government regulation over these drugs, and to protect the continued sale of these drugs.
By pleading guilty to his role in the money-laundering conspiracy, Butler admitted that the nature and source of the proceeds of the distribution of synthetic cannabinoids was concealed by the transfer of funds between business entities created to appear to conduct lawful commerce.
Under federal statutes, Butler is subject to a sentence of up to 40 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Oliver. It was investigated by the DEA Task Force – Jefferson City, DEA Sacramento, Calif., DEA Reno, Nev., IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the MUSTANG Drug Task Force, the Callaway County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Cole County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Jefferson City, Mo., Police Department, the Fulton, Mo., Police Department and the Holts Summit, Mo., Police Department.