ST. LOUIS. — Twenty-eight people, mostly from the St. Louis area, were indicted in federal court Wednesday on multiple charges alleging the group conspired to create, market and distribute illegal synthetic drugs.
This federal indictment is the result of an intensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Additional assistance was received from the St. Louis (Missouri) County Police Department, St. Charles County (Missouri) Sheriff's Department, the Missouri Lake Area Narcotics Enforcement Group, Metropolitan Enforcement Group for Southern Illinois and the Southern Illinois Drug Task Force.
Beginning June 17 and ending just 30 hours later, 28 people were arrested or surrendered on multiple charges contained in four separate indictments alleging offenses involving the manufacturing and sale of synthetic drugs.
Specifically charged in each indictment are:
- Conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances and controlled substance analogues;
- Conspiracy to introduce and receive misbranded drugs in interstate commerce;
- Conspiracy to import controlled substances and controlled substance analogues;
- Conspiracy to receive, sell and facilitate the transportation of smuggled goods with forfeiture allegations; and,
- Money laundering counts.
The manufacture of synthetic drugs is a recent development designed to circumvent traditional drug laws. This is done by creating new chemical compounds that mimic the effects of drugs like marijuana and cocaine but purport to avoid the classification of a controlled substance because of a chemical alteration. Synthetic drugs are most frequently marketed as legitimate products and sold in typical commercial outlets such as convenience stores and gas stations. The drugs masquerade as incense, potpourri, glass cleaner, bath salts and plant food, just to name a few. Their cost, however, is much higher than the normal commercial product they mimic.
One group of synthetic drugs is made up of cathinones and is a "speed" type drug commonly marketed as bath salts. The synthetic cathinones are typically snorted and are packaged in containers with names such as Full Throttle, Fresh, Limited, Starry Nights, Twisted, Pump It and Blitz. Reported effects have included high blood pressure, paranoia, anxiety and even psychosis.
Another group of synthetic drugs is made from synthetic cannabinoids which are a far more powerful and unpredictable form of marijuana. The cannabinoids are typically smoked, and are packaged in multi-gram packets with names such as Mega Kush, Mad Hatter, Bayou Blaster, Avalon, Pirates Booty, Lights Out, Golden Leaf, DEEW, Cloud 9, Primo, Optima and Crazy Eyes. Although commonly referred to as synthetic marijuana, the effects are far more powerful and dangerous than so-called natural marijuana, with reported additional effects including excessive heart rate, vomiting and seizures.
U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan warned: "Parents should not be lulled into a false sense of confidence that these substances must be OK just because they were purchased down at the corner gas station or convenience store. The bottom line is that these drugs are extremely dangerous, and the ingestion of these substances has led to serious medical consequences requiring hospitalization and even death and suicide."
"These drugs can cause serious health problems or even kill those who ingest them," said James Gibbons, deputy special agent in charge for HSI Chicago, which oversees St. Louis. "Homeland Security Investigations will continue to work with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to identify these criminal schemes, seize their unregulated contraband and bring purveyors of synthetic drugs to justice."
IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge James C. Lee stated: "IRS-Criminal Investigation is united with the rest of the law enforcement community in our resolve to financially disrupt criminal organizations that commit crimes against our society. IRS-CI will continue to investigate and protect the American people."
Charged in the first indictment are:
- Anwer Rao, 35, O'Fallon, Ill.
- Michael Lentsch, 34, O'Fallon, Ill.
- Matthew Fiedler, 23, Belleville, Ill.
- Larry Farmer, Jr., 40, Keyesport, Ill.
- Charles Kinney, 55, O'Fallon, Ill.
- Brandien Robinson, 28, O'Fallon, Ill.
- Mansi Patel, 28, Phoenix, Ariz.
Charged in the second indictment are:
- Greg Sloan, 58, St. Charles, Mo.
- Doug Sloan, 53, Indianapolis
- Igor Holdaiy, 52, St. Louis, Mo.
- Elizabeth Pogue, 41, Bridgeton, Mo.
- Charles Wolfe, 53, St. Peters, Mo.
- Brett Beeman, 42, O'Fallon, Mo.
- Sherri Beeman, 37, O'Fallon, Mo.
- Roger Galvin, 36, Charlack, Mo.
- John Galvin, 52, St. Louis, Mo.
- Robert Jaynes, Jr., 43, Indianapolis
- Kirk Parsons, 45, Indianapolis
- David Neal, 45, Carmel, Ind.
- Marcia Gronek, 52, St. Peters, Mo.
Charged in the third indictment are:
- Mark Palmer, 44, Granite City, Ill.
- Anthony Palmer, 25, Mt. Vernon, Ill.
- Samuel Leinicke, 24, Arnold, Mo.
- Charles Wolfe, 53, St. Peters, Mo.
- Robert Wolfe, 52, Hazelwood, Mo.
- Joseph Gabrick, 52, O'Fallon, Mo.
- Charged in the fourth indictment are:
- Pamela Tabatt, 56, St. Peters, Mo.
- Richard Gross, 34, Winfield, Mo.
- Paul Berra, Jr., 30, Warrenton, Mo.
If convicted, the drug conspiracy charges and money laundering conspiracy charges carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison for each count and/or fines ranging from $500,000 to $1 million. Additionally, the indictments seek forfeiture of assets and property totaling more than $12 million.
The charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.