DEA Arrests Nine People throughout Florida during the
July 31 (Miami, Fla.) – Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division and Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida announced the arrest of nine individuals who are charged with the manufacturing and distribution of synthetic drugs throughout the state of Florida as part of Operation Log Jam. These arrests and charges were part of the first-ever nationwide law enforcement action against the synthetic designer drug industry responsible for the production and sale of synthetic drugs that are often marketed as bath salts, Spice, incense, or plant food.
Operation Log Jam was conducted jointly by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), with assistance from the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations (IRS), U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, as well as countless state and local law enforcement members in more than 109 U.S. cities and targeted every level of the synthetic designer drug industry, including retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers. Today’s nationwide takedown resulted in approximately 90 arrests and the seizure of more than five million packets of finished designer synthetic drugs. More than $36 million in cash was also seized.
In Florida, Operation Log Jam resulted in the arrest of nine individuals. Five individuals were charged within the Southern District of Florida.
The DEA Tampa District Office assisted the DEA Long Island District Office in apprehending four individuals, William Chavis, 29, Justin Gensel, 41, Vincent Cashman, 41, and Kevin Matherson, 41. Chavis, Gensel, Cashman, and Matherson were indicted by the Southern District of New York and charged for conspiring to distribute a controlled substance. The defendants were allegedly manufacturing and distributing synthetic marijuana and other designer drugs through their businesses, BMS Distributors and Integrity Distributors. Chavis, Gensel, and Matherson were arrested in Tampa, Florida during the Operation Log Jam takedown. They were presented in the Middle District of Florida. On July 26, 2012, Cashman surrendered and made his initial appearance in the Middle District of Florida.
During this operation, a total of 48 search warrants were executed in the following Florida cities: West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Fort Pierce, Stuart, Tampa, Melbourne, Redington Shores, Holiday, St. Petersburg, and Gainesville. These federal and state search warrants at defendant’s residences, suspected synthetic drug labs, businesses and bank accounts seizures resulted in the seizure of more than $18,900,000 in cash, approximately 3,600,000 packets of synthetic cannabinoid, approximately 8,363 packets of synthetic cathinone, 1458 kilograms of raw synthetic cannabinoid, 70 kilograms of raw synthetic cathinone, and approximately 14,286 kilograms of untreated plant material. In addition, law enforcement also seized 17 firearms (including a .50 caliber rifle), approximately 6,000 rounds of ammo, 15 vehicles, 2 motorcycles, 23 luxury watches, 24 computers, six cement mixers and 32 Mylar packaging sealers.
Special Agent in Charge Mark R. Trouville for DEA Miami stated, “Although we are encountering a new dangerous and volatile drug trend with the production and sale of these synthetic drugs, we at DEA are committed to invest any necessary enforcement efforts with our federal, state and local counterparts in order to dismantle the operation of these drug trafficking organizations, and to eliminate the presence of these harmful products from our communities.”
“Synthetic cannabinoid products, commonly known as “Spice,” or packaged as purported incense or potpourri, are the latest dangerous designer drugs to reach our neighborhoods. These products have proven to be a public health hazard with serious, and sometimes deadly consequences,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer. “The joint federal and state multi-agency investigation that culminated in today’s charges demonstrates the seriousness and scope of the problem and the strength of our resolve to eradicate the threat posed by these synthetic drugs. Synthetic marijuana, its producers, distributors and sellers have been added to our list of targets on our continuing war on drugs.”
Over the past several years, there has been a growing use of, and interest in, synthetic cathinones (stimulants/hallucinogens) sold under the guise of “bath salts” or “plant food.” Marketed under names such as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” or “Bliss,” these products are comprised of a class of dangerous substances perceived to mimic cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and/or methamphetamine. Users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia, and violent episodes. The long-term physical and psychological effects of use are unknown but potentially severe.
These products have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults and those who mistakenly believe they can bypass the drug testing protocols that have been set up by employers and government agencies to protect public safety. They are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops, and over the Internet. However, they have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human consumption or for medical use, and there is no oversight of the manufacturing process.
Smokable herbal blends marketed as being “legal” and providing a marijuana-like high have also become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults, because they are easily available and, in many cases, they are more potent and dangerous than marijuana. These products consist of plant material that has been coated with dangerous psychoactive compounds that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Just as with the synthetic cathinones, synthetic cannabinoids are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet. Brands such as “Spice,” “K2,” “Blaze,” and “Red X Dawn” are labeled as incense to mask their intended purpose.
While many of the designer drugs being marketed today that were seized as part of Operation Log Jam are not specifically prohibited in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 (AEA) allows these drugs to be treated as controlled substances if they are proven to be chemically and/or pharmacologically similar to a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance. A number of cases that are part of Operation Log Jam will be prosecuted federally under this analogue provision, which specifically exists to combat these new and emerging designer drugs.
DEA has used its emergency scheduling authority to combat both synthetic cathinones (the so-called bath salts like Ivory Wave, etc.) and synthetic cannabinoids (the so-called incense products like K2, Spice, etc.), temporarily placing several of these dangerous chemicals into Schedule I of the CSA. Congress has also acted, permanently placing 26 substances into Schedule I of the CSA.
In 2010, poison centers nationwide responded to about 3,200 calls related to synthetic “Spice” and “bath salts.” In 2011, that number jumped to more than 13,000 calls. Sixty percent of the cases involved patients 25 and younger.
Mr. Trouville commended the investigative efforts of many federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that provided their assistance during this investigation, among them, ICE-HSI, IRS, CBP, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Okeechobee Sheriff’s Office, Boca Raton Police Department, Boynton Beach Police Department, Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Tampa Police Department, Clearwater Police Department, Largo Police Department, Lakeland Police Department and Temple Terrace Police Department.
An indictment and criminal complaint are merely preliminary allegations that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal law. All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless the government proves their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury at trial.
For more information about this operation and synthetic designer drugs, visit www.dea.gov.