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Federal, State and Local Law Enforcement Cite Public Safety Threats from Butane Hash Oil Labs in Rhode Island
Five individuals charged in federal court; significant property damage and at least one death are attributed to explosions and fires in illicit BHO labs

MAR 30 (PROVIDENCE, R.I.) – Michael J. Ferguson Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England and United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha announced the filing of federal criminal charges against five individuals for their alleged roles in the operation of butane hash oil (BHO) labs in Rhode Island. At a news conference to announce results of several joint federal, state and local law enforcement investigations into the operation of four BHO labs, United States Attorney Peter Neronha led a host of federal, state and local law enforcement leaders to emphasize the public safety threat and potential for catastrophic results due to the emerging presence of illicit BHO labs.

BHO labs are highly dangerous facilities used to extract tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a Schedule I controlled substance found in marijuana plants, through the use of butane. In the past year, illicit BHO labs were discovered by law enforcement in South Kingstown, Westerly, Providence, and West Warwick.

United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha today announced federal criminal charges in four cases against five individuals all of whom, it is alleged, were involved in the operation of BHO labs. There is no relation between the defendants or the cases, other than allegations that the four labs were involved in the manufacture of hash oil from marijuana using butane.

United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha commented, “This activity poses an enormous threat to human life. Where BHO manufacturing is going on, no one is safe: not those involved in the illegal operation themselves; not those who happen to be living or visiting nearby; not first responders. The demand for BHO, whether for purported medical purposes or otherwise, cannot justify its production, given the magnitude of risk.   Second, those who continue to engage in the production of BHO, notwithstanding what ought to be abundantly clear by now, will be the strong focus of our collective law enforcement efforts.”

“DEA is committed to locating, investigating and dismantling butane honey oil labs, which create a real potential for fires, explosions, injuries and deaths, and to investigate those traffickers who manufacture and distribute BHO,” said Special Agent in Charge of DEA in New England Michael J. Ferguson. “The federal charges announced today represent law enforcement’s efforts to combat this emerging deadly threat, and fulfill our obligation to improve public safety and health. These investigations demonstrate the strength of collaborative law enforcement efforts in Rhode Island to aggressively pursue anyone who manufactures and dispenses these dangerous drugs.”

“BHO operations pose a very serious threat to public safety. ATF is committed to assisting our law enforcement and public safety partners in identifying and arresting those responsible for such egregious acts” said Daniel J. Kumor, ATF Special Agent in Charge / Boston Field Division.

“Unregulated production of BHO in our communities is a significant public safety problem, putting families, neighbors, and the general public at risk. It is dangerous and can be deadly, as it was with the BHO lab explosion last year in South Kingstown. The increased production and use of BHO is yet another example of how our existing marijuana laws and regulatory structure has led to dangerous unintended consequences. We need to get a handle on this problem now, before more lives are lost, by giving law enforcement the tools they need to investigate and shut down these death labs,” said Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin who has filed legislation that would prohibit medical marijuana patients and caregivers from extracting THC from marijuana using a flammable liquid, the method used in making BHO. The legislation would allow compassion centers to extract THC using a flammable liquid only within rules and regulations to be promulgated by the Rhode Island Department of Health.  

Colonel Steven G. O’Donnell, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety said, “Butane hash oil labs pose a significant threat not only to the public but to every first responder called upon to respond to any emergency where these BHO labs are being operated. The Rhode Island State Police and the Rhode Island Fire Marshal’s Office will continue to work closely with federal and local law enforcement agencies, and federal and state prosecutors, to identify these labs and to hold those who run these labs and endanger our neighborhoods accountable.”

“The Providence Fire Department faced a totally engulfed building fire on Kinsley Avenue, which put the lives of numerous firefighters in danger when they fought this fire. At one point while on the scene of the fire, the exterior wall collapsed and a roof beam catapulted through the wall nearly striking apparatus and firefighters. These defendants caused our firefighters great danger and put the public at risk for which we are grateful no one was injured.  This is an example of what the Providence firefighters face when answering a fire alarm.  It could have turned tragic for so many,” said Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré. “Our firefighters, ATF, and the arson investigators did an outstanding job investigating this fire.  I hope this will deter others from similar behavior that is so dangerous and risky for our public safety officers.”

Investigations and Federal Criminal Charges
214 Hemlock Road
South Kingstown

According to a federal indictment returned on Tuesday, it is alleged that on July 31, 2015, explosions and fire in and around a BHO lab caused significant property damage to a single family residence in South Kingstown, and seriously injured two individuals. The injuries suffered by one of the individuals contributed to his death three months later.

It is alleged in the indictment that Dillon Kantlehner, 26, of Providence, and a second person who later died from injuries sustained as a result of the explosions and fire, used the kitchen area to operate a BHO lab. Investigators seized more than 500 grams of BHO and over 9,000 grams of marijuana from the home, as well as 72 butane canisters, some empty and some full.

The indictment charges Kantlehner with endangering human life while illegally manufacturing a controlled substance. A federal warrant has been issued for the arrest of Dillon Kantlehner.

498 Kinsley Avenue
Providence

On March 9, 2015, a massive fire destroyed an 85,900 square foot warehouse on Kinsley Avenue in Providence. As alleged in a federal indictment returned on Tuesday, Christopher White, 50, of Warwick, and Graeme Marshall, 50, of Cranston, leased the warehouse from which they operated a business that sold equipment and supplies for marijuana cultivation. It is alleged in the indictment that White and Marshall used a portion of the warehouse to operate a butane hash oil manufacturing laboratory. It is alleged in the indictment that over a period of approximately two years, White and Marshall manufactured over 1,000 grams of BHO at the Kinsley Avenue warehouse, which they sold for between $15 and $30 per gram.

It is alleged in the indictment that the fire began in the room where the BHO laboratory was located.

A 22-count federal indictment charges Christopher White and Graeme Marshall with nine counts of endangering human life while illegally manufacturing a controlled substance, one count of conspiracy, seven counts of distribution of a controlled substance and five counts of money laundering. White and Marshall appeared today for arraignment before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Patricia A. Sullivan. A not guilty plea was entered. The defendants were released on unsecured bond.

15 Apache Drive, Apt. B
Westerly

In the early morning hours of November 27, 2015, in the wake of a fire in a multi-unit apartment building on Apache Drive in Westerly, investigators discovered a BHO lab. It is alleged that one of the residents of the apartment had been conducting a butane hash oil manufacturing operation.

A criminal information filed in this matter charges Scott Slagel, 41, with endangering human life while illegally manufacturing a controlled substance. Slagel is scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court on April 5, 2016.

656 Providence Street, Apt. 301
West Warwick

On July 16, 2015, West Warwick Police and federal law enforcement agents executed a Rhode Island state court authorized search warrant inside a building on Providence Street, which houses residential and commercial units. In an apartment leased by Tyler Crespo, 21, law enforcement allegedly discovered a full-scale butane hash oil manufacturing laboratory. Investigators also seized over 6,000 grams of butane hash oil and nearly $14,000 in cash.

A federal indictment returned on Tuesday charges Tyler Crespo with one count of endangering human life while illegally manufacturing a controlled substance and one count of manufacture of a controlled substance. A federal warrant has been issued for the arrest of Tyler Crespo.

An indictment and criminal information are merely allegations and are not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Sandra R. Hebert, Paul F. Daly, Jr., and Richard B. Myrus.

The various matters were investigated by a combination of law enforcement agents and officers from the DEA, ATF, Rhode Island State Police and Rhode Island State Fire Marshal’s Office, The Providence Police Department and the Providence Fire Marshal’s Office, the Westerly, South Kingstown and West Warwick Police Departments.


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