Charles Burton Ritchie and Benjamin Galecki convicted of 24 counts of manufacturing synthetic cannabinoids
LAS VEGAS, NV (STL.News) – Two individuals were convicted of 24 counts related to the manufacture of synthetic cannabinoids (commonly referred to as “spice”) Wednesday by a federal jury including operating a continuing criminal enterprise, manufacturing and possessing with the intent to distribute a controlled substance and controlled substance analogues, money laundering, mail and wire fraud, and related charges.
The verdict was announced by Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, United States Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich of the District of Nevada, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Daniel W. Neill of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Acting Special Agent in Charge Ismael J. Nevarez Jr. of the Las Vegas Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.
According to the evidence presented during the ten-day trial, the defendants, Charles Burton Ritchie, 48, of Park City, Utah, and Benjamin Galecki, 44, of Pensacola, Florida, committed these crimes in the District of Nevada, from March 21 to July 25, 2012. Specifically, the evidence showed that Ritchie and Galecki were the owners and managers of Zencense Incenseworks, a company that manufactured smokable synthethic spice and marketed their products as “potpourri,” “incense,” and “aromatherapy.”
The evidence showed that Ritchie and Galcki rented a warehouse in Las Vegas for the sole purpose of manufacturing spice products which contained the dangerous chemical XLR-11, which the jury found to be a controlled substance analogue. Ritchie and Galecki ordered XLR-11 from chemical suppliers in China and Hong Kong. At the Las Vegas warehouse, a Zencense employee mixed the XLR-11 with acetone, liquid flavoring and applied the chemical mixture to dried plant material. The warehouse employee mailed the compounded spice in draw string garbage bags to Ritchie and Galecki in Pensacola, Florida, where other workers placed the spice into small retail bags. The defendants sold their products with suggestive brand names including, “Bizarro,” “Orgazmo,” “Headhunter,” and “Defcon 5 Total Annihilation,” to smoke shops across the United States. From June 1 to July 25, 2012, Ritchie and Galecki were responsible for manufacturing and distributing approximately 4,000 pounds of spice and grossed more than $1.6 million dollars in sales.
The minimum penalty for a continuing criminal enterprise is 20 years’ imprisonment and a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The penalties for the controlled substance analogue, wire fraud, mail fraud, and six money laundering counts each carry a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment.