Five Larimer County residents were arrested late last week for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture and distribute, U.S. Attorney John Walsh and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Kumar Kibble announced. The controlled substance in this case is commonly known as “Spice.” Playing a critical role in the investigation was the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force. The indictment was unsealed by the court July 22.
The five defendants arrested, Dien Le, Ponlue Pim, Pirun Pim, Ricky Pim, and Kenneth Barnes appeared in U.S. District Court in Denver this afternoon, where they were advised of their rights and the charges pending against them. They are due back in court on July 25 at 10 a.m. for arraignment and a detention hearing.
On last Friday, July 19, 2013 HSI agents and Northern Colorado Task Force officers executed search warrants at seven locations, including residences and businesses in Fort Collins. During the course of executing those warrants, agents and officers seized: money from several bank accounts used by the defendants (amounts to be determined), $26,000 in cash, 75 pounds of Spice and the chemicals and dry products to make Spice, thousands of packaging units of Spice for later sale, and several firearms.
According to the indictment, from October 11, 2012 through approximately April 30, 2013, and continuing within the State of Colorado and elsewhere, the defendants did knowingly and intentionally conspire to manufacture, possess with the intent to distribute, and to distribute mixtures or substances containing detectable amounts of JWH-018 [1-pentyl-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole], also known as synthetic cannabinoid, a Schedule I controlled substance. The street name for this drug is Spice.
During the spring of 2013, the defendants engaged in knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to manufacture and distribute mixtures or substances containing synthetic cannabinoid controlled substance.
The investigation revealed that Barnes would order JWH-018, which is a white powder, from China. He would have the powder delivered from China to New York City. From there, he’d have the illegal substance sent from New York to Fort Collins. Barnes also had a green leafy type substance sent to Fort Collins from San Antonio, Texas. In Fort Collins, Barnes, Le and the Pims would mix the substances together, wet it, let it dry, thus creating Spice. They would then package the product and take it to head shops, gas stations and other local stores to sell it. The cost of 1.5 gram packets would be $10, and the cost for 3 gram packets would be $20.
The product used by the defendants, JWH-018, is manufactured in China, with no Food and Drug Administration or other type of oversight. It can contain substances that are dangerous to an individuals’ health. Some purchase Spice because they cannot purchase marijuana. Both substances are dangerous to an individual’s health, which is why both JWH-018 and marijuana are both listed as Schedule I Controlled Substances, which are banned from use.
Most defendants face conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. Others face possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture and distribute. All charges carry a penalty of not more than 20 years in federal prison, and a fine of up to $1,000,000, per count.
“Spice is a very dangerous substance that is being used by people as young as teenagers,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “When a person uses Spice they have no actual idea what they are putting into their body – as a key part of the product is made in China without regulatory controls.”
“Illicit smuggling schemes involving synthetic marijuana pose a growing threat to public health and safety,” said Kumar Kibble, special agent in charge of HSI Denver. “Because these drugs are unregulated and untested, it is impossible to know what chemicals are being ingested, making them incredibly dangerous. With these latest arrests, HSI and our law enforcement partners have struck a huge blow to the synthetic drug industry.”
“This is another excellent example of federal and local law enforcement personnel working well together,” said Lt. Greg Yeager, Commander of the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force. “The dismantling of this drug trafficking organization will have a lasting impact on the presence of illegal drugs not only in the City of Fort Collins, but across the nation.”
Those charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance face not more than 20 years in federal prison, and a fine of up to $1,000,000. Those charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to manufacture or distribute also face not more than 20 years in federal prison, and up to a $1,000,000 fine, per count.
This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Northern Colorado Drug Task Force. The Northern Colorado Drug Task Force is made up of the Fort Collins Police Department, the Loveland Police Department and Colorado Adult Parole.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Sibert.
The charges contained in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.