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Contraband
01/31/2014

Chicago-area father and son indicted for allegedly operating a $2 million synthetic marijuana mail-order business

CHICAGO — A local father and son were indicted Thursday on federal charges for allegedly operating a nationwide mail-order synthetic marijuana business in the south suburbs that netted them about $2 million over a three-year period.

These charges were announced by the following agency heads: Zachary T. Fardon, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Chicago; John Redmond, special agent in charge of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations in Chicago; Jack Riley, special agent in charge of the Chicago office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); James C. Lee, special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Criminal Investigation; and Tony Gómez, inspector in charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Chicago.

The Illinois State Police also assisted in the investigation, which was conducted under the umbrella of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).

Following an undercover investigation, James M. Bolin and his son, James P. Bolin, were charged with multiple offenses relating to misbranding and trafficking drugs. James M. Bolin was also charged with money laundering. Both defendants allegedly defrauded and misled the FDA and the DEA regarding the drug status of their purported "herbal" products to avoid regulation of the drugs they sold.

On June 4, federal agents executed a search warrant at James M. Bolin's former residence in Manhattan, Ill., where he operated a business known as "Herbal City," "H City," "Shop HC," and "Show Off City." During the execution of the search warrant, federal agents seized hundreds of packages of allegedly illegal synthetic cannabinoids, or a version of the psychoactive component of marijuana, as well as $165,247 in cash. The defendants allegedly advertised the sale of misbranded drugs online and created videos to promote human consumption of their products.

James M. Bolin, aka "James Matthew," 49, and his son, James P. Bolin, aka "Jimmy," 31, both of New Lenox, Ill., were each charged with the following crimes:

  • one count of conspiring to commit misbranding of drugs,
  • four counts of placing misbranded drugs into commerce, five counts of receiving and delivering misbranded drugs,
  • two counts of conspiring to possess and distribute synthetic marijuana products,
  • six counts of distributing controlled substances or analogues, and
  • one count of attempting to distribute controlled substances or analogues.

James M. Bolin was also charged with seven counts of money laundering.

The 26-count indictment, which also seeks the forfeiture of about $2 million in illegal proceeds, was returned by a federal grand jury Jan. 30. The Bolins will be arraigned on a date yet to be determined in U.S. District Court.

According to the indictment, between January 2010 and June 2013, the defendants conspired to introduce, receive and deliver misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. The Bolins bought and sold products that they and their suppliers – located in California, Florida and New York – falsely referred to as "incense," "herbal incense," "herbal potpourri," and other misleading names. In fact, the drugs were falsely labeled, indicating they were not intended for human consumption when they actually were. The packages also failed to bear labels identifying the name and quantity of active ingredients, as well as the name and location of the manufacturer, packer or distributor, the indictment alleges.

The indictment identifies the following products that the Bolins allegedly bought, marketed and sold as misbranded drugs: G-20 Herbal Potpourri, Joker Herbal Potpourri, Caution Blitzen Herbal Potpourri, Kronik Kryponite Herbal Potpourri, AK-47 24 Karat Gold Potpourri, ZenBio Sonic Zero Cherry, ZenBio Sonic Zero Blueberry, Hip Hop, Darkness Prince, Out World, Cherry Bomb, Caution Platinum Super Strong Incense, Caution Silver Super Strong Incense, Diablo Botanical Incense, Bizarro, Smoking Santa, Mr. Happy and OMG Next Generation.

The indictment alleges that the defendants used the U.S. Postal Service and commercial carriers to ship and receive their illegal products and leased mailboxes in commercial stores in Frankfort and New Lenox, Ill. They allegedly paid at least $1 million to out-of-state suppliers for the misbranded drugs they obtained, while collecting about $3 million in revenue from customers between 2010 and June 2013.

Each count in the indictment contains various maximum penalties, ranging from three years in prison on the misbranded drug counts, to 20 years in prison on the controlled substance counts and some of the money laundering counts against James M. Bolin. Each count also carries a maximum fine ranging between $250,000 and $1 million.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider, Northern District of Illinois, is prosecuting this case.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.