CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Eight Corpus Christi residents have been sentenced to serve between six and more than 21 years in federal prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute synthetic cannabinoids. The most recent sentence was handed down Tuesday.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Corpus Christi, Texas, led the year-long investigation known as “Operation Done Wrong” with assistance from the following: U.S. Marshals Service; Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Border Patrol; Corpus Christi Police Department; Texas Department of Criminal Justice; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Texas Department of Public Safety; Kleberg County Narcotics Task Force, and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
James Roye Bryan Townzen, 30; Victoria Martinez, 24; Michael Llamas, 29; Benjamin Llamas, 35; Raymond Reyes, 38; John Perez, 28; Raymond Shane Townzen, 29; and Joe McNabb, 30, pleaded guilty April 16, 2019. Charles Warren Callis, 42, entered his plea Aug. 19, 2019.
- Feb. 18 - Callis was sentenced to serve 226 months in federal prison for his involvement with the synthetic cannabinoid offense. He also pleaded guilty to an unrelated charge of possessing with intent to distribute cocaine but proceeded to trial on a related charge of possessing a firearm in furtherance of cocaine trafficking. A jury convicted him of that charge July 30, 2019. He received a sentence of 166 months for cocaine trafficking to be served consecutively to another 60 months for the firearm conviction. That total sentence will be served concurrently to the 166-month sentence imposed in the synthetic cannabinoids case for a total 226-month sentence.
- December 2019 - James Townzen received a sentence of 222 months in prison. Raymond Townzen was sentenced to 150 months, while Reyes, Perez and McNabb were ordered to serve respective terms of 84, 72 and 156 months in federal prison. Martinez and Michael Llamas received 160 and 200 months, respectively, for the drug charge in addition to another 60 months for possessing a firearm that must be served consecutively for a total 220- and 260-month terms of imprisonment, respectively.
Callis was ordered to serve five years of supervised release while the remaining defendants will serve three-year terms following their respective sentences.
- Benjamin Llamas is set to be sentenced next month.
At the sentencing hearings, the court heard from a DEA expert witness who provided testimony about how the agency handles newly emerging synthetic narcotics, their adverse effects, and the imminent hazard they present to public safety. An HSI special agent also testified as to the impact synthetic cannabinoids have on the local community.
In handing down the sentences, the court acknowledged the significant danger of synthetic cannabinoids as well as the large scale of the operation, specifically the steps taken to import the chemicals and produce such a large quantity of product that was distributed within the community.
In January 2018, officials intercepted an international package from China sent to Corpus Christi that contained a kilogram of the synthetic cannabinoid 5F-MDMB-PINACA, a Schedule I controlled substance.
The investigation determined James Townzen was ordering illegal chemicals from overseas and using them to manufacture synthetic marijuana, or Kush, inside a room at Callis’ business Done Right AC. The finished product was then provided to Michael Llamas and others who would advertise and sell the illegal substance through online social media platforms, such as Facebook.
Further, authorities discovered that after James Townzen was taken into custody for unrelated state violations, he continued to run and direct the operation. While in custody, he provided detailed instructions to Martinez who continued to order the chemicals, manufacture the products inside Done Right AC and distribute them through Llamas. Other members of the conspiracy were responsible for picking up the international packages or purchasing the material and equipment needed to complete the process.
Law enforcement officials estimate the organization produced and sold more than 300 pounds of the illegal substance.
Synthetic cannabinoids are chemical compounds that mimic the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. These chemical compounds can be applied to carrier mediums such as plant material and ingested using rolling papers, pipes, vaporizers or otherwise taken orally. Synthetic cannabinoids are usually sold in small, foil or plastic bags containing dried leaves (resembling potpourri) and is marketed as incense that can be smoked. It is commonly sold and known on the street as synthetic marijuana, fake weed, legal and by its popular brand names such as Spice, K2, Kush, Klimaxx and many others.
All defendants have been and will remain in custody.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lance Watt is prosecuting the case.