Sentences ranging from 3.5 years to almost 10 years in prison were handed down this week to the six men charged in a synthetic marijuana sales and money laundering scheme operated through Curious Goods stores. U.S. District Judge Elizabeth E. Foote presided over the Dec. 16 hearings.
Curious Goods LLC was ordered to pay a $40,000 fine and must forfeit $860,000 in illegal proceeds derived from the scheme, along with two cars and a speed boat. Also sentenced was one of the company’s owners, Richard Buswell of Lafayette. Buswell was sentenced to 103 months (eight years, seven months) in prison and three years of supervised release. In September Buswell was sentenced to 126 months for securities fraud.
Five other co-conspirators were also sentenced Dec. 16:
In September 2012, Curious Goods and co-conspirators Alexander Derrick Reece, 42 of Gainesville, Fla.; Drew T. Green, 40 of Roswell, Ga.; Thomas William Malone, Jr., 48 of Roswell, Ga.; Boyd Anthony Barrow, 46 of Canton, Ga.; Joshua Espinoza, 51 of Marietta, Ga.; Richard Joseph Buswell, 46 of Lafayette, La.; Daniel Paul Francis, 44 of Dawsonville, Ga.; and Daniel James Stanford, 57, of Lafayette, La., were charged by a grand jury in a 16-count indictment with conspiracy to distribute synthetic drugs, conspiracy to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, conspiracy to commit money laundering and various money laundering charges.
At the time of the indictment, Curious Goods was a business based in Lafayette that marketed and sold a product called “Mr. Miyagi,” which was infused with synthetic cannabinoids. Although mislabeled as a potpourri, “Mr. Miyagi” was sold to be smoked for the sole purpose of getting the consumer of the product “high.” Court testimony revealed that it was never intended to be used as potpourri.
Federal authorities say the synthetic cannabinoids infused into “Mr. Miyagi” are considered Schedule I controlled dangerous substances under federal law. From March 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011, Curious Goods stores made approximately $5 million from the sale of the illegal “Mr. Miyagi” product, according to investigators.
Barrow and Espinoza controlled and operated Pinnacle Products LLC/Pinnacle Products Group, based in Marietta, Ga. Pinnacle was the manufacturer of the “Mr. Miyagi” products and supplied the products to the local Curious Goods stores. Pinnacle obtained the synthetic cannabinoids used to manufacture “Mr. Miyagi” from NutraGenomics, which was located in an Alpharetta, Ga., and was controlled by co-conspirators Green and Malone. NutraGenomics distributed synthetic cannabinoids throughout the U.S.
“The defendants in this case intentionally sold a dangerous drug that was shamelessly marketed to young people. Too many members of our community were lured into the Curious Goods stores that sold this poison,” U.S. Attorney Stephanie said in a press release. “This case highlights how lucrative this industry is and reveals the lengths that criminals are willing to go to profit while endangering the health and safety of citizens. Dedicated men and women of federal, state and local law enforcement fought to bring these defendants to justice. ... I hope that store owners, franchisees, investors and distributors who want a make a fast buck at the expense of others think twice and understand that we will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute their criminal activity.”
The remaining defendant, Lafayette criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 15. Unlike the others sentenced on Dec. 16, all of whom had pleaded guilty, Stanford chose to go to trial and was convicted by a jury on Aug. 29. Another co-defendant, attorney Barry Domingue, committed suicide in early April, two days after he and Stanford initially went on trial in the case. A mistrial was declared, and Stanford was retried.
The DEA, FBI, IRS, HSI, Louisiana State Police, Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Lafayette Police Department conducted this investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Luke Walker, J. Collin Sims and Robert C. Abendroth prosecuted the case.