Synthetic Cannabinoid Seller Pleads Not Guilty in Virginia Federal Court

In March of this year, a federal indictment was unsealed revealing a three-year long investigation into a multi-state conspiracy to distribute and sell the synthetic cannabinoid colloquially called “spice.” The investigation, which began in Virginia alleged that Joseph Ruis, Kimberly Drumm and Bonnie Turner ran a business out of California that was called Aroma Superstore (and was connected to “a network of different business entities,” the indictment explained) where spice could be purchased and a warehouse in Palm Desert, California where the spice was held.

New Hampshire’s William Walsh is also named as part of the conspiracy for his extensive spice purchases.. The indictment also names “N.L.” and “N.N.,” the initials of two convenience store owners in Virginia who purchased spice from Ruis, Drumm, and Turner to sell. This investigation began, according to the indictment, with a “confidential source working on behalf of law enforcement” called the Aroma Superstore and ordered 133 packages of spice to be sent to an address in Gainesville, Virginia. Between February 2018 and April 2019, the confidential source made six spice purchases from Aroma Superstore. The indictment describes N.L., N.N. and Walsh as “the end of the supply chain” started by Ruis, Drumm, and Turner.

At the same time that this investigation was going on, Walsh, the indictment alleged, sold a kind of spice labelled “Mad Hatter Blueberry” to someone referred to as “J.S,” who died after using it: “J.S. later used the spice, which caused him to overdose. J.S.’s serious bodily injuries and death resulted from the use of this spice, which contained the Schedule I synthetic cannabinoid ADB-FUBINACA,” the indictment reads.

Walsh is presented as Ruis, Drumm, and Turner’s top customer. The indictment alleges that Walsh bought $180,000 in spice from Ruis, Drumm, and Turner. On November 14 2019, Walsh’s businesses in Seabrook, New Hampshire (two smokes shops called Smoking Monkey and Up In Smoke as well as an adult video store Leather and Lace) as well as his home were all raided. Federal agents seized $670,522 in cash from his house and $6,610 from his three stores. At the stores, federal agents also seized nearly 4,000 packets of spice.

Last month on July 29, Walsh, charged with distributing synthetic cannabinoids that lead to a death, pleaded not guilty. Walsh requested a jury trial and if he is found guilty could be fined as much as $1 million and sent to federal prison for 20-25 years.

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