The last of 13 defendants in a mid-Missouri drug ring involving distribution of more $6.6 million of synthetic marijuana has pleaded guilty.
43-year-old Raja Amer Nawaz of California plead guilty yesterday in federal court to conspiracy to distribute the substance, which is commonly referred to as “K2”.
Nawaz agreed to forfeit nearly $3 million to the government, which represents proceeds attributed to his conduct. Several retail businesses involved in the conspiracy purchased synthetic marijuana from Nawaz and three other individuals for more than two-and-a-half years.
At least 251 shipments were delivered through FedEx and UPS between 2012 and 2015 to the retailers in Auxvasse, Fulton and Holt Summit.
The packages were labeled as “incense,” “aroma therapy” or “potpourri” that were “not for human consumption”, when they actually contained synthetic marijuana meant to be ingested.
Prosecutors say the packages were mislabeled intentionally avoiding government regulation over the drugs, and to protect their continued sale.
Under the terms of Tuesday’s plea agreement at the U.S. District Court of Western Missouri in Kansas City, the government will recommend that Nawaz receive an eight-year sentence in federal prison without parole.
Nawaz is the final defendant among 13 co-defendants who have pleaded guilty in this case. Others involved include Jason Lee Houston, 37, Shawn Michael Browning, 27, Timothy Christopher Sandfort, 31, Joshua Adam Sheets, 31, and Brandon Derek Rader, 33, all of Fulton, Mo., and Michael James Butler, 40, of Sacramento, Calif. They pleaded guilty to participating in the mail fraud conspiracy as well as a money-laundering conspiracy.
Curtis Whayne Gonzales, 57, and Aleksandr Polyanskiy, 35, both of the Sacramento area, pleaded guilty to participating in the mail fraud conspiracy.
Nawaz’s wife, Sheila Marie Nawaz, 40, of Roseville, and Dara Leanne Shirley, 31, of Fulton, pleaded guilty to participating in the money-laundering conspiracy.
Casey Dewayne Miller, 32, of Columbia, and Billie L. Bruce, 36, of Jefferson City, each pleaded guilty to distributing synthetic cannabinoids.