High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford of Lafayette, 54, and 52-year-old attorney Barry Domingue of Carencro, who practices personal injury and construction law, are among 10 people indicted by a federal grand jury in an alleged multi-state illegal synthetic drug operation. In the indictment unsealed Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley claims Stanford received $156,921 and Domingue $91,319 for their role in a money laundering and drug trafficking ring involving $5 million in sales of synthetic marijuana.
The 16-count indictment charges nine individuals and the company Curious Goods with conspiracy to distribute synthetic drugs, conspiracy to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and various money laundering charges. The drugs are often marketed as bath salts, Spice, incense, potpourri or plant food.
Also named in the indictment are Alexander Derrick Reece, 40, of Gainesville, Fla.; Drew T. Green, 38, of Roswell, Ga.; Thomas William Malone, Jr., 45, of Roswell, Ga.; Boyd Anthony Barrow, 43 of Canton, Ga.; Joshua Espinoza, 49, of Marietta, Ga.; Richard Joseph Buswell, 44, of Lafayette; and Daniel Paul Francis, 42, of Dawsonville, Ga.
Domingue did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment for this story.
At the time of the Sept. 4 drug indictment, Buswell was already facing federal criminal charges related to his role in an investor fraud scheme involving his former company, Bowman Investment Group. Buswell has pleaded not guilty to those charges and is awaiting trial. Stanford, who says his involvement in this case began with his representation of Buswell in the securities fraud matter, released the following statement to IND Monthly:
"I did nothing illegal or wrong and at all times represented my client effectively as a criminal defense lawyer.It takes a certain amount of courage to be an effective criminal defense lawyer. A lawyer cannot do his client justice as a federal criminal defense advocate if he is afraid of the government.To function as an effective criminal defense lawyer, the lawyer has to be willing to litigate government efforts to restrain his client's liberty and assets, and he has to be willing to have his own conduct scrutinized by an adversary capable of ruining his career or his life.In this case, the government is prosecuting me and attempting to ruin my career and my life because I effectively represented my client and sought justice as his lawyer and advocate.This is simply a case of the government alleging guilt through the representation of my client."
The indictment alleges that Curious Goods, a company based in Lafayette and controlled by Buswell, sold a product called “Mr. Miyagi” that was infused with synthetic cannabinoids. Although mislabeled as a potpourri, “Mr. Miyagi” was sold to be smoked for the sole purpose of getting the consumer of the product “high,” according to the indictment. The synthetic cannabinoids infused into “Mr. Miyagi” are considered Schedule I controlled dangerous substances under federal law. According to the feds, in 2010 poison centers nationwide responded to about 3,200 calls related to synthetic “Spice” and “bath salts.” In 2011, that number jumped to more than 13,000 calls. Sixty percent of the cases involved patients 25 and younger.
The local business was very lucrative, the feds say: From March 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011, Curious Goods stores throughout Acadiana had sales of “Mr. Miyagi” totaling $5 million.
The indictment states that Pinnacle Products/Pinnacle Products Group based in Marietta, Ga., manufactured “Mr. Miyagi” and supplied the product to Curious Goods. Pinnacle Products was controlled and operated by Boyd Anthony Barrow and Joshua Espinoza. Pinnacle obtained the synthetic cannabinoids for “Mr. Miyagi” from NutraGenomics, an Alpahretta, Ga., based company controlled by Drew T. Green and Thomas William Malone Jr. NutraGenomics distributed synthetic cannabinoids throughout the U.S., according to the indictment, and the majority of the synthetic cannabinoids distributed by NutraGenomics was supplied by Alexander Derrick Reece through the companies Mountain Industry and Blue Sky International Broker.
The feds say Stanford received checks totaling $156,921 from Pinnacle Products and Curious Goods. They allege that at a meeting held at Buswell's house on or about Dec. 7, 2011, Stanford trained, advised and instructed franchise owners at Curious Goods stores and their employees on "how to detect and evade law enforcement, and how to respond to customers who asked questions about how to the use the 'Mr. Miyagi' products and/or the physiological effects of the 'Mr. Miyagi' products." A day after the meeting, on or about Dec. 8, 2011, an unindicted coconspirator gave Stanford $80,000 in cash, according to the indictment.
The feds have moved to seize more than $20 million in cash the defendants received either directly or indirectly from the drug trafficking ring, a 2006 Mercedes Benz X65 sedan, a 2005 Baja Outlaw speed boat, and 2002 Pontiac Firebird (the owners were not listed), and Stanford's home at 120 Branton Drive in Lafayette. According to the tax assessor's office, the home is valued at $572,000.
This indictment follows an investigation conducted jointly by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigations division, Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, Lafayette Metro Narcotics, Louisiana State Police, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, and the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
The indictment is part of “Operation Log Jam,” a nationwide synthetic drug takedown that occurred July 25, 2012. During the takedown, more than 90 people were arrested and more than 5 million packets of designer synthetic drugs seized in the first-ever nationwide law enforcement action against the synthetic designer drug industry responsible for distributing drugs often marketed for other purposes, such as bath salts.
The feds say the popular, smokable designer drugs are marketed as “legal” and easily available. They provide a marijuana-like high that in many cases is far more intense with dangerous side effects comparable to amphetamine abuse. These smokable designer drugs are marketed as “Spice,” “K2,” “Blaze,” “Mr. Miyagi” and “Red X Dawn” and often labeled as incense or potpourri.
Attorney Bill Goode, who leases office space to Stanford in his downtown building, says the feds will have a tough time making a case against Stanford. “I’ve known him for 10 years, and if I got into any kind of trouble, I’d hire him in a heartbeat,” Goode says. “They’re indicting him for giving legal advice to his clients, and that’s just wrong. I think it’s just nonsense.”
Goode, himself a criminal defense attorney, also believes the new laws prosecutors are using in the conspiracy case as a whole are vague and ambiguous. “There is a question of whether this is a banned substance,” he says.