By coming clean to the feds about his two shady business ventures, Richard Buswell, the former owner of Curious Goods smoke shop and Bowman Investment Group, now faces several decades in prison after entering two guilty pleas in federal court.

richardbuswell
 Richard Buswell

U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley announced Buswell’s guilty pleas in a press conference Wednesday, detailing the two separate cases.

The first came last week on July 19, when Buswell pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance analogue through his business Curious Goods, followed on Wednesday by a second guilty plea to one count of wire fraud for a scheme involving his company Bowman Investment Group, which resulted in about 100 clients from throughout the Lafayette area being swindled out of roughly $5 million.

In the investment scam, Buswell made a profit of more than $1.7 million, according to documents released during Wednesday’s press conference. The scheme, according to Finley, involved exaggerated promises of stock returns to sway clients to make bogus investments so Buswell could earn commissions. Buswell also falsified documents to make his company appear accredited and didn’t advise clients of the risk involved with their investments.

His alleged accomplice, Herbert Fouke, maintains his innocence, says Finley. Though a date has yet been set for Buswell’s sentencing hearing in the wire fraud case, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Fouke is slated for a trial in February 2014.

In pleading guilty in the synthetic drugs case, Buswell provided the feds with further details of the roles played by criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford of Lafayette and personal injury attorney Barry Domingue of Carencro. Stanford originally represented Buswell in the securities fraud case, and claims that his indictment in the Curious Goods conspiracy is a result of that representation.

Stanford and Domingue, along with Dan Francis of Dawsonville, Ga., and Alexander Derrick Reece of Gainesville, Fla., are the last of the nine people included in the original indictment, handed down in September, to not plead guilty.

According to the documents released Wednesday:

Buswell hired Domingue to prepare franchise agreements, which used the term ‘legal herbal alternative’ in the definition of product. Domingue was also the hidden owner of one Curious Goods franchise location, and was integral in the day to day operations of Curious Goods. According to Buswell, Curious Goods also agreed to pay, and did pay, Domingue a monthly commission of [three percent] of all revenue generated by the Curious Goods franchises.
Court documents also state that Domingue was the author of an employee manual that detailed techniques “to further the ‘not for human consumption’ misbranding of Mr. Miyagi.” According to Buswell’s plea, as business grew, Stanford and Francis were brought in. Their role, according to the court record, centered on their partnership in the Retail Compliance Association — a company started to assist retail outlets in selling/marketing synthetic cannabinoids.

The record states:
Buswell ... stated that Stanford intended to downsize his practice and focus more on the RCA. Stanford, Richard, Buswell, Espinoza, and Barrow agreed that they would each pay Stanford around $6,000 to $7,000 per week as RCA dues. [T]he RCA money was to compile a legal team to challenge state and federal laws. Stanford misrepresented ... that he had a letter from the Louisiana Attorney General that permitted Curious Goods to sell Mr. Miyagi for two years.
Stanford has contested the feds' allegation that he broke the law, arguing that based on federal analogue laws, the entire indictment is questionable.

According to Finley, Buswell’s sentencing will coincide with the trial for the remaining four defendants. It is scheduled for March 2014. For the Curious Goods plea, Buswell faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

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