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Three Individuals Sentenced for Distributing Synthetic Cannabinoids

NOV 24 (CONCORD, N.H.) – Michael J. Ferguson Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England and Acting United States Attorney Donald Feith announced that three men who were involved in a scheme that distributed in excess of 1,000 kilograms of illegal synthetic cannabinoid products have been sentenced in federal court.

On November 24, 2015, Chief United States District Judge Joseph Laplante sentenced Robert Costello (71) of Lawrence, Massachusetts to 60 months in prison. Costello had pleaded guilty on February 12, 2015, conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce with the intent to commit a drug trafficking crime and to traveling in interstate commerce with the intent to commit a drug trafficking crime.

On November 23, 2015, Judge Laplante sentenced Kyle Hurley (33) of Seabrook, New Hampshire to 114 months in prison. Hurley had pleaded guilty on February 12, 2015, to participation in a conspiracy to distribute, and possess with intent to distribute, controlled substances.   Earlier this month, on November 9, 2015, Judge Laplante sentenced Sean Nolan (33) of Concord, New Hampshire to 21 months in prison. Nolan had pleaded guilty on April 23, 2015, to distributing a controlled substance.   Court documents show that Hurley and Costello were arrested on March 28, 2014, after they arranged to deliver approximately 74 15-kilogram bags of synthetic cannabinoid products to undercover law enforcement officers. The synthetic cannabinoid products contained AB-FUBINACA, an illegal controlled substance.   As described in court documents, Hurley and Costello worked together to manufacture and distribute synthetic cannabinoids that were sold in packages bearing a variety of brand names, including “Scooby Snax,” “Bizarro,” “Toxic Blue Magic,” and “Caution Platinum.” These products, which were then sold in convenience stores and at other locations, contained chemicals that are unlawful controlled substances, including XLR-11 and AB-FUBINACA.   Court documents show that Sean Nolan had assisted Hurley in the distribution of these products. After the arrest of Hurley and Costello, Nolan sold a quantity of AB-FUBINACA to an undercover law enforcement officer.   Two other individuals also have been charged as a result of this investigation.   The resident of the Epping location, Ryan Johnson (32), pleaded guilty on May 26, 2015, to conspiracy to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. A sentencing date for Johnson has not yet been set.   Tony Aoude (44) of Derry, New Hampshire has been indicted on charges related the distribution of synthetic cannabinoids. The indictment charges Aoude with Distributing a Controlled Substance (AB-FUBINACA), Conspiracy to Violate the Travel Act, and Conspiracy to Receive Misbranded Products, as well as separate violations the federal Travel Act and the federal misbranding statute. According to the Indictment, Aoude sold synthetic cannabinoid products at stores in Londonderry and Hooksett, New Hampshire in 2013 and 2014. Aoude has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial on February 2, 2016.   The charges and allegations contained in an indictment are merely accusations. A defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Synthetic cannabinoids are green leafy materials that have been sprayed with chemicals. These products (commonly referred to as “spice” or “K2”) are often marketed as incense or potpourri. As in this case, the packaging materials often contain attractive logos that are designed to appeal to young people. Although the products are often identified as “not for human consumption,” the products are smoked in order to obtain a high. The chemicals that are sprayed on the products to produce the high are often illegal controlled substances or analogues of illegal controlled substances. The ingestion of these types of illegal products has caused some users to experience a variety of medical side effects and has led to numerous hospitalizations.   The investigation is continuing.

This case was supported by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations. The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad led the investigation in collaboration with the US Postal Inspection Service and Homeland Security Investigations. The investigators also received the invaluable assistance of DEA-NH/HIDTA and DEA’s Air Wing, the New Hampshire and Massachusetts State Police, the U.S. Marshal Service, Portsmouth Police Department, Somersworth Police Department, Kingston Police Department, Dover Police Department, and the York and Kittery, Maine Police Departments.


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