Friday, February 06, 2015

Joplin/Webb City business owner pleads guilty to $6.7 million K2 conspiracy

(From the U. S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri)

Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that two brothers who owned businesses in Springfield, Joplin and Webb City, Mo., pleaded guilty in federal court today to their roles in a $6.7 million conspiracy that involved the distribution of approximately 2,253 kilograms of synthetic marijuana, commonly referred to as K2.

Jeremy W. Elliott, 42, of Rogers, Ark., and his brother, Travis L. Elliott, 38, of Springfield, Mo., pleaded guilty in separate appearances before U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Travis Elliott was the registered agent of “A Head of Our Times, LLC.,” which ran a retail store in Springfield. He employed a manager and others at this store. Jeremy Elliott was the owner of “Mr. Nice Guy,” which operated retail locations in Joplin and Webb City.

Both Travis and Jeremy Elliott admitted they engaged in a conspiracy between Oct. 29, 2009, and Nov. 6, 2012, to distribute (via FedEx) Kryp2nite products, which were falsely labeled as “incense” and “not for human consumption,” but in reality contained synthetic marijuana that was intended for human consumption as a drug. Conspirators manufactured and distributed K2 to retail outlets in Springfield, Joplin, Webb City and elsewhere through a Springfield business, ThirdEye, Inc.

Joplin police officers seized Kryp2nite products from the “Mr. Nice Guy” store in Joplin on two occasions, including a seizure of 21.7 kilograms of synthetic marijuana on May 7, 2012.

Law enforcement officers also executed a search warrant at the “Mr. Nice Guy” store in Webb City on May 7, 2012. Records seized during the execution of the search warrant indicated that during the month of March 2012, the Webb City store sold $205,675 in inventory. Records indicated that during April 2012 the store sold $146,204 in inventory. Approximately 10.7 kilograms of synthetic marijuana was seized.

An employee at the Webb City location told officers that she knew people were ingesting the synthetic marijuana products she sold to them. She stated that employees were instructed not to sell synthetic marijuana to customers who overtly spoke of ingesting these products. This employee also admitted to smoking these products to get high.

Springfield police officers made undercover purchases of K2 from “A Head of Our Times” in Springfield. On June 12, 2012, police officers executed a search warrant at the business and seized approximately two kilograms of Kryp2nite, as well as records documenting the purchase and delivery of synthetic marijuana.

Officers observed signage in the store that read, “Incense, Sachets and Potpourri Blends are not for human consumption!” and “Talk of smoking it or otherwise using it illegally will result in the loss of the sale and you may be asked to leave. Thank you! @.” The products labeled as incense were located in proximity to smoking devices such as bongs and vaporizers.

Both Travis and Jeremy Elliott received shipments of Kryp2nite products from ThirdEye, a Springfield business owned by co-defendants Douglas K. Franklin, 56, and his son, Brandon D. Franklin, 28, both of Springfield, who also have pleaded guilty to their roles in the mail fraud conspiracy. Douglas and Brandon Franklin also pleaded guilty to participating in a money-laundering conspiracy related to conducting financial transactions involving the proceeds of unlawful activity, which were designed to conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the proceeds.

Charges against Douglas Franklin’s daughter, Caitlyn E. Franklin, 26, of Springfield, were dismissed following a pre-trial diversion agreement. Co-defendant DeWayne T. Barnhart, 38, of Joplin, who managed the Webb City store, pleaded guilty to receiving and distributing misbranded drugs and was sentenced to a term of probation.

Under federal statutes, Travis and Jeremy Elliott are each subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.

These convictions are the result of a large-scale investigation by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies into the distribution of K2, the slang term for synthetic marijuana products. K2 is a mixture of plant material that has been sprayed or mixed with a synthetic chemical compound similar to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. K2 products are often labeled as “incense,” but in reality are intended for human consumption as a drug.

This case is being prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Oliver. It was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Jasper County Drug Task Force, the Jasper County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Joplin, Mo., Police Department, the Webb City, Mo., Police Department, the South Central Drug Task Force, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Springfield, Mo., Police Department, the Newton County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department and the Greene County, Mo., Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

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