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Narcotics
02/27/2014

7 arrested in synthetic marijuana conspiracy

MIDDLESEX COUNTY, Va. – Seven adults were arrested Tuesday on charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute smokable synthetic cannabinoids, Schedule I controlled substances, with the intent for human consumption, and drug paraphernalia following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington.

Connie Rhoades Bowler, 47; Brandon Bowler, 22; and Harrell Kenneth Stockwell, Jr., 54 of Gloucester, Va.; John Stacey Rhoades, 41 and Robert Rhoades, 19, of Hayes, Va.; Melody Rhoades Green, 52, of Topping, Va.; and Christopher Lowery, 29, of Farnham, Va., each face a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment if convicted of the conspiracy charge.

Additionally, Bowler, Green and Rhoades are charged with maintaining a drug-involved premises for the Slipknots Trading & Tobacco stores located in Topping and Tappahannock, a charge that carries up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

The seven defendants were engaged in a conspiracy to distribute various forms of synthetic cannabinoids from May 14, 2012, through Feb. 18.

Bowler, Green and Rhoades are the owners of Slipknots Trading & Tobacco, LLC, a tobacco store that sold smokable synthetic cannabinoid (SSC) products, often commonly referred to as "Spice," and items ranging from water pipes to rolling papers, used to smoke SSC. During the investigation law enforcement made numerous controlled purchases of SSC from the Slipknots stores. Although some of the SSC that the stores sold was not yet regulated, much of the SSC purchased was in fact illegal Schedule I controlled substances or Schedule I controlled substance analogues. The authorities allege that Slipknots Trading & Tobacco sold more than $3 million of SSC product over an 18 month period of time.

The Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Middlesex County Sheriff Department, Essex County Sheriff Department, Tappahannock Police Department and the Virginia State Police assisted in the investigation.