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Bristol Businessman Sentenced to Serve 24 Months in Prison for Conspiracy to Distribute Synthetic Drugs
Defendant operated retail stores selling “bath salts” and “fake weed”

DEC 01 (GREENEVILLE, Tenn.) - On Nov. 30, 2015, Daniel Guy Bickley, 56, of Bristol, Va., was sentenced by the Honorable J. Ronnie Greer, U.S. District Court Judge, to serve 24 months in federal prison. Bickley was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release after his prison term and forfeit over $300,000 in assets.

Bickley was indicted in January 2014 and pleaded guilty in September 2014 to conspiracy to distribute controlled substance analogues intended for human consumption and conspiracy to commit money laundering. From approximately September 2010 through June 2012, he trafficked in synthetic drugs to include stimulants (“bath salts”) and cannabimimetic substances (“fake weed” and “incense”). He operated first from locations in southwest Virginia and then through a business called Cloud 9 Emporium in Bristol, Tenn. Bickley subsequently opened additional Cloud 9 locations in Johnson City and Mountain City, Tenn., before the stores were closed as the result of law enforcement action in March 2012. He was also involved in a fourth business, White Cloud Emporium, located in Kingsport, Tenn., and operated by another person. Bickley obtained the synthetic drugs from various sellers, but his primary suppliers were persons in the Largo/Holiday, Florida area. During the less than two year period, he sold several million dollars’ worth of synthetic drugs and used the proceeds from the drug sales to purchase real and personal property in the names of other persons.

During the period in which Bickley was selling synthetic drugs, the Tri-Cities area experienced a public health crisis from the abuse of such drugs. Emergency rooms experienced a surge of users of synthetic drugs, who exhibited extreme paranoia and psychoses; agitated and violent behavior; and elevated heart rates, blood pressure, and body temperatures. While the trafficking in illicit drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin creates substantial risks to the public, trafficking in synthetic drugs brought a uniquely dangerous situation to the community. Medical treatment for the users of such drugs is complicated because there are no available antidotes, such as for opioid overdoses, and physicians often do not know what substance is involved. Synthetic drug products are often targeted at teenagers and young adults with colorful packaging with cartoon characters. A study by the Center for Substance Abuse Research identified synthetic marijuana as the third most reported substance used by U.S. high school students after alcohol and marijuana.

Agencies involved in this investigation included the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, the Bristol Tennessee and Virginia Police Departments, the Kingsport Police Department, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Johnson City Police Department, and the First and Second Judicial District Drug Task Forces. Assistant U.S. Attorney Neil Smith represented the United States.

The DEA encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.justthinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.

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