Two men charged with manufacturing dangerous concoction of drugs.
Following a ten-day federal jury trial in Las Vegas, Nevada, Charles Burton Ritchie, 49, of Park City, Utah, and Benjamin Galecki, 46, of Pensacola, Florida, the defendants were sentenced to nearly twenty years –sixteen and eighteen – each in connection to the “manufacturing of synthetic cannabinoid products (known as ‘spice’), operating a continuing criminal enterprise, manufacturing and distributing controlled substance analogues, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, maintaining a drug premises, and possession of a listed chemical with the intent to manufacture a controlled substance.”
“Charles Burton Ritchie and Benjamin Galecki operated a nationwide criminal enterprise, selling dangerous drugs worth millions of dollars that contained illegal ingredients imported from China,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “These sentences demonstrate the department’s commitment to aggressively pursuing criminals who seek to circumvent U.S. drug laws by selling dangerous drugs that threaten the health of our communities across the nation.”
According to court documents, from March 21 to July 25, 2012, Ritchie and Galecki owned and operated Zencense Incenseworks, a company that manufactured smokable synthetic cannabinoid products and marketed and sold them as “potpourri,” “incense,” or “aromatherapy.” The defendants rented a Las Vegas warehouse space for the purpose of manufacturing these products, which contained the XLR-11, a dangerous chemical when ingested. Zencense employees would mix XLR-11 with acetone and liquid flavoring, and then apply the chemical mixture to dried plant material. The concoction would then be mailed to Ritchie and Galecki in Pensacola, Florida, where other employees would place the spice into small retail bags to be sold under suggestive brand names such as “Bizarro,” “Orgazmo,” “Headhunter,” and “Defcon 5 Total Annihilation” in smoke shops across the United States. The men distributed approximately 4,000 pounds of spice in total, and they made approximately $1.61 million.
“Working collaboratively with our justice partners to rid our communities of spice and other toxic cannabinoid products helps save lives,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Dan Neill of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Las Vegas Field Office. “Disrupting this organization sends a clear message that we will not tolerate those who prey on our communities to further their criminal activity.”
“Ritchie and Galecki benefited greatly at the detriment of our community and others by putting illegal drugs on the streets and profiting from it,” said Special Agent in Charge Tara Sullivan, IRS Criminal Investigation. “IRS Criminal Investigation is proud to serve on the side of justice to clean up the streets.”
The defendants argued in court they had worked closely with federal regulators to ensure their products were legal. However, ultimately, Ritchie received nine years in federal prison for charges brought in the Southern District of Alabama and nine years in federal prison for charges brought in the Eastern District of Virginia. Galecki received eight years in federal prison for charges brought in the Southern District of Alabama and eight years in federal prison for charges brought in the Eastern District of Virginia. They were also ordered to forfeit $2.5 million.