October 15, 2015
Contact: Erin Mulvey
Phone Number: (212) 337-2906
Nyack Man Arrested For Sales Of Synthetic Cannabinoid Resulting In One Known Overdose
Arrest was part of Operation Project Synergy III- 15-month, nationwide drug interdiction effort with 151 arrests in 16 states.
NEW YORK - James J. Hunt, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Division of the Drug Enforcement (DEA), Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William J. Bratton, the Commissioner of the Police Department for the City of New (NYPD), announced the arrest today of the owner of a retail smoke shop called Liquid Glass in Nyack, New York, that is alleged to have sold smokeable synthetic (“SSC”). The owner, Andrew Grogan, allegedly sold or conspired to sell at least 39 packets of SSCs over a one-year period, resulting in at least one overdose. Grogan was arrested this morning and was presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith C. McCarthy this afternoon in White Plains federal court.
DEA Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt said: “To make it simple, synthetic (K2) have become one of the most significant threats to public health because it is cheap and because it is misconceived as being safe. K2 is second only to marijuana as the most frequently used illegal drug among high school seniors, and has resulted in a dramatic increase of emergency room visits and overdose deaths. K2 is nothing more than poisonous products wrapped in candy wrappers and sold on the street as safe highs. DEA and our law enforcement partners are prioritizing efforts to identify those responsible for distributing synthetic cannabinoids throughout our communities.”
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As I emphasized when we announced New York City’s largest joint federal and local action confronting these drugs a month ago, synthetic cannabinoids are a public health crisis that is reaching epidemic proportions. Smoking it is a dangerous game of Russian Roulette that too many in our communities are playing. These drugs aggravate all manner of other societal ills: they are entering prisons, preying on the homeless; burdening our emergency rooms; fueling addiction; exacerbating mental health problems; and increasing risks to cops who have to deal with people high on it. Today’s arrest is part of our ongoing commitment to confront this serious public health problem.”
NYPD Commissioner Bratton said: “Synthetic cannabinoids, more commonly known as K2, can be incredibly dangerous and pose a significant risk to both the public and the emergency responders who come into contact with them. I want to thank the investigators involved in this case whose hard work held accountable this individual’s alleged effort to sell K2.”
The following allegations are based on the unsealed Complaint filed today in Manhattan federal court.
Starting in January 2015 and continuing until his arrest, Grogan sold SSCs, with brand names like “Green Giant” and “Geeked Up,” from his smoke shop in Nyack, New York. Grogan mentioned to undercover law enforcement that he had a supplier of SSCs from whom he could either pick up products after store hours or receive products by mail. On at least one occasion, Grogan traveled to New York, New York, to purchase 10 packets of SSCs from another smoke shop.
Grogan also stated to undercover law enforcement that he was “all out” of the SSC “Green Giant” because there had been a festival in Nyack that had “kids lined up outside the door” to buy the products.
The SSCs distributed by Grogan caused one known overdose: On January 10, 2015, an individual overdosed after consuming a mixture of four packets of SSCs labeled “Tranquility,” “Meditate,” “Karma,” and “Dream Catcher.” Medical reports concluded that the overdose resulted from cannabinoid consumption. Friends of the victim obtained the SSCs from Grogan’s smoke shop in Nyack.
SSCs are made by mixing illegal synthetic compounds with chemical solvents, including acetone and/or flavoring additives, and spraying the resulting liquid mixture onto leafy materials, like tea leaves. The SSCs are then bundled into colorful retail packets that are sold under names such as “Green Giant” and “Geeked Up,” each containing between approximately three and six grams of product, and sometimes marked “not for human consumption” or “potpourri.”
SSCs are widely accessible because they are inexpensive and commonly sold at otherwise legitimate retail locations, like Grogan’s Liquid Glass. The colorful logos used on the SSC retail packets and the flavors used, such as lime, strawberry, and blueberry, make SSCs attractive to teenagers and young adults. Physical effects of SSCs include agitation, rapid heart rate, confusion, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, paranoia, panic attacks, and acute kidney injury. In addition, SSCs have inconsistent potencies, often containing more than one synthetic compound, and are sometimes laced with other toxic chemicals. Nationally, calls to poison centers in the United States related to SSC use between January and May 2015 increased 229% over the same period in 2014.
Some of the brand names of SSCs sold by Grogan, like “Geeked Up” and “Green Giant,” were also alleged to have been used by the 10-member international narcotics conspiracy charged by this office by Indictment on September 16, 2015. This Complaint marks a continuation of the major law enforcement action against SSC manufacturers and distributors announced via press release following that Indictment.
Grogan, 48, of Nyack, New York, is charged with one count of conspiring to distribute a controlled substance, and one count of distributing a controlled substance, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The statutory maximum sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentence will be determined by the judge.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara thanked the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion (Group TDS-NY) comprised of agents and officers from the U.S. Drug Enforcement (DEA), the New York City Police Department, the New York State Police, Town of Orangetown Police Department, and the Westchester County Police Department in conjunction with Rockland County Drug Task Force and South Nyack Police Department for their work in the year-long investigation, which he noted is ongoing.
The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer L. Beidel is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.