July 13, 2018
Contact: Casey Rettig
Phone Number: (415) 436-7900
Synthetic drug dealer convicted on all counts
FRESNO, Calif. – Following a month-long jury trial, Douglas Jason Way, aka Jason Way, 45, of Evanston, Illinois, was found guilty today on all counts for a conspiracy to manufacture and distribute synthetic marijuana, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Chris Nielsen announced.
On May 15, 2014, Way was charged by an indictment filed in Fresno with conspiring to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute synthetic cannabinoids or designer drugs, commonly known at the street level as “spice,” “K2” or “herbal incense.” He was also charged with manufacturing, distributing, possessing with intent to distribute, and attempting to possess with intent to distribute synthetic cannabinoids and with conspiring to possess acetone, a List II chemical, for the purpose of manufacturing synthetic cannabinoids, conspiring to defraud the United States and commit offenses against the United States, and causing the introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.
According to court documents, Way was the leader of a drug conspiracy involving the manufacture and distribution of at least 24 tons of smokable synthetic cannabinoids that contained the synthetic drugs AM-2201 and XLR11, also known as 5-F-UR-144. The chemicals came from China and the finished product was sold to smoke shops and retail outlets throughout the United States and generated over $32 million in illicit income in five months. Manufactured by companies called Zencense and ZenBio, the drugs were processed in warehouses in Millbrae and Stockton and marketed under the brand names of Bizarro, Posh, Sonic Zero, Headhunter, Neutronium, and Orgazmo. They were distributed to The Stuffed Pipe smoke shops located throughout the Central Valley of California, as well as to other retail establishments in 47 states.
Public health and law enforcement agencies have seen the emergence of synthetic drug use. State and local public health departments note that synthetic cannabinoids cause serious adverse health effects, including agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, elevated blood pressure, tremor, seizures, hallucinations, paranoid behavior, and even death. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, poison centers throughout the United States received 5,230 calls about exposures to these drugs in 2012 and 2,656 exposures in 2013. Making matters worse, synthetic cannabinoids are often marketed as “legal” substances and sometimes labeled as “herbal incense” or “potpourri.” The 2012 Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act made 26 types of synthetic cannabinoids, including AM-2201, Schedule I drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. DEA placed JWH-018 in Schedule I in 2011 and placed XLR11 in Schedule I in 2013.
This case was the product of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation by the DEA, IRS, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Fresno County Sheriff’s Office. Numerous other law enforcement agencies assisted in follow-up investigation, including the St. Cloud, Minnesota Police Department; Mars Hill, North Carolina Police Department; Montgomery County, North Carolina Sheriff’s Office; Buncombe County, North Carolina, Sherriff’s Office; and Willis, Texas Police Department. The OCDETF Program was established in 1982 to mount a comprehensive attack against organized drug traffickers. Today, the OCDETF Program is the centerpiece of the United States Attorney General’s drug strategy to reduce the availability of drugs by disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations and money laundering organizations and related criminal enterprises. This OCDETF investigation was also part of a nationwide law enforcement effort coordinated by the DEA’s Special Operations Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen A. Escobar and Vincenza Rabenn are prosecuting the case.
Way is scheduled for sentencing on October 29, 2018, before U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd. With respect to the drug charges, Way faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine, as to each count. The conspiracy to defraud charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The FDA mislabeling charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of three years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
Way is also facing the forfeiture of over $589,000, representing the drug proceeds that he derived from the illegal operation. To date, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has forfeited more than $6.5 million of drug proceeds: $6,488,000 in cash and $191,000 in other assets, including a 2013 Ford F350 pickup truck and a 2014 Airstream travel trailer.