Previous owners of a store in Vandalia were indicted in a major synthetic marijuana drug case that reached $6.6 million as the decision came down last week in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri.
According to a press release issued last Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson announced six Fulton, Mo. individuals, along with a Columbia, Mo., man, a Jefferson City, Mo, man and five individuals in the Sacramento, Calif., area, were indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in a $6.6 million mail fraud conspiracy that distributed synthetic marijuana, also known as “K2,” at various retail locations in Callaway County, Mo.
Jason Lee Houston, 36, Shawn Michael Browning, 25, Timothy Christopher Sandfort, 30, Brandon Derek Rader, 31, Joshua Adam Sheets, 30, and Dara Leanne Shirley, 30, all of Fulton; Casey Dewayne Miller, 32, of Columbia; Billie L. Bruce, 36, of Jefferson City; Raja Amer Nawaz, also known as “Rex,” 41, a citizen of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and his wife, Sheila Marie Nawaz, 39, both of Roseville, Calif.; Michael James Butler, 39, of Sacramento, Calif.; Curtis Whayne Gonzales, 55, of North Highlands, Calif.; and Aleksandr Polyanskiy, 24, of Citrus Heights, Calif.; were charged in a 14-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Jefferson City on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.
Sandfort was quoted in a “Vandalia Leader” story that was published on April 3, 2013 entitled “New resale shop opens in Vandalia.”
The business “Inscentives” was open at 104 S. Main St. in Vandalia after receiving a business license in March 2013.
While the article notes that the store specialized in aroma therapy products, it also had plans to become a licensed car and firearms dealer. Houston was also quoted in the story.
As K-2 was a new product at the time, the State of Missouri was passing a statute on the drug that year, the City of Vandalia also passed an ordinance on the issue.
It was just a few months later when “Incentives” closed.
The indictment alleges that all of the defendants participated in a conspiracy to defraud the government and the public from Dec. 18, 2012-July 16, 2015, by selling synthetic marijuana under various trade names as “incense,” “aroma therapy” or “potpourri” that were “not for human consumption” when, in truth and fact, these products were drugs intended for human consumption as a drug.
According to the indictment, hundreds of shipments of synthetic marijuana were made to Callaway County. Synthetic marijuana was allegedly sold at Inscentives Resale, with one location in Auxvasse, Mo., and two locations in Fulton, and at S&J Smoke Shop in Holts Summit, Mo.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the original criminal complaint, these retail establishments grossed approximately $6,656,843 from the sale of approximately 799 kilograms of synthetic marijuana.
Undercover purchases of synthetic marijuana allegedly were made by law enforcement officers from these retail establishments. On numerous occasions, the affidavit says, law enforcement officers seized synthetic marijuana from individuals who had just left one of these retail establishments. Additionally, law enforcement officers responded to reported overdoses on synthetic marijuana that involved subjects who had purchased these substances from these retail establishments.
Houston, Sandfort, Rader, Shirley and Miller operated three businesses: Inscentives Resale (with locations in Auxvasse and Fulton), from which they allegedly distributed synthetic marijauna. The federal indictment alleges that at various times Inscentives Resale, Inscentives Auto and First Stop Last Stop Pawn and Aromatherapy purchased synthetic marijuana from Raja Nawaz, Butler, Gonzales, Polyanskiy and others.
Houston, Sandfort, Rader, Shirley, Miller, Browning, Sheets and Bruce also periodically supplied each other with packages of synthetic marijuana for resale.
According to the indictment, Houston, Sandfort, Rader, Shirley, Browning and Sheets paid at least $2,866,676 to Raja Nawaz, Polyanskiy, Butler, Gonzales and others for synthetic marijuana between Jan. 16, 2013, and April 18, 2015.
Raja Nawaz (assisted by Polyanskiy) allegedly shipped synthetic marijuana from California and Nevada via FedEx and UPS to Houston, Sandfort, Rader, Browning, Sheets, Shirley, Miller, Bruce and others at least 190 times between Sept. 4, 2013, and Dec. 24, 2014.
Butler and Gonzalez allegedly shipped synthetic marijuana from California via UPS to Houston, Sandfort, Rader, Shirley and Miller at least 37 times between June 24, 2014, and April 14, 2015.
Polyanskiy allegedly shipped synthetic marijuana from Nevada via UPS to Houston, Sandfort, Rader, Browning, Sheets, Shirley, Miller and Bruce at least 24 times from Jan. 8 to April 14, 2015.
Additional Drug-Trafficking Counts
The federal indictment also alleges that all of the defendants participated in two additional conspiracies – a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and a conspiracy to distribute controlled substance analogues.
In addition to the three conspiracy counts, the federal indictment charges Browning, Sheets and Bruce together in one count of aiding and abetting each other and others to distribute controlled substances.
Browning, Sheets and Bruce are also charged together in count of aiding and abetting each other and others to possess controlled substances with the intent to distribute.
Houston, Sandfort, Rader and Miller are also charged together in one count of aiding and abetting each other and others to distribute controlled substances.
Houston, Sandfort, Rader and Miller are also charged together in one count of possessing controlled substances with the intent to distribute.
Houston, Sandfort and Rader are also charged together in three counts of maintaining a place for the purpose of storing and distributing controlled substances at Inscentives Resale, with one location in Auxvasse and two locations in Fulton. Browning and Sheets are also charged together in one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of storing and distributing controlled substances at S&J Smoke Shop in Holts Summit.
Money Laundering Counts
Raja Nawaz, Butler, Gonzales, Houston, Browning, Sandfort, Sheets, Rader and Shirley are also charged together in one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. They allegedly conspired to conduct financial transactions that involved the proceeds of illegal activity in order to promote the criminal activity and to conceal the nature of the proceeds.
In addition to the money-laundering conspiracy, Raja Nawaz, Houston, Sandfort, Rader and Shirley are charged together in two counts of money laundering.
The indictment alleges that Raja Nawaz engaged in numerous financial transactions through which he transmitted approximately $387,114 in proceeds from the distribution of synthetic marijuana from the United States to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in order to conceal these proceeds.
The indictment also contains several forfeiture allegations, which would require the defendants to forfeit to the government any property used to commit the alleged offenses or any property derived from the proceeds of the alleged offenses, including a $6,656,843 money judgment, which represents the amount of money involved in the conspiracy to defraud the government and the public, and a $321,585 money judgment, which represents the amount of money involved in the conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Forfeitures would also include the property of Inscentives Resale at 601 Airway Dr., Fulton, as well as $3,070 seized by law enforcement officers from Inscentives Resale, $9,581 seized by law enforcement officers from S&J Tobacco, $3,028 seized by law enforcement officers from Browning and various bank accounts.
Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Oliver. It was investigated by the DEA Task Force – Jefferson City, DEA Sacramento, Calif., DEA Reno, Nev., IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the MUSTANG Drug Task Force, the Callaway County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Cole County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Jefferson City, Mo., Police Department, the Fulton, Mo., Police Department and the Holts Summit, Mo., Police Department.