Federal prosecutors received another guilty plea in the Curious Goods conspiracy to mislabel and market synthetic marijuana, leaving three standing, including two Acadiana attorneys who still maintain their innocence.
The latest plea came Tuesday from Dan Francis of Dawsonville, Ga., according to a press release issued Thursday by U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley’s office.
Francis, according to the release, pleaded guilty to one count of introducing a misbranded drug into interstate commerce. That drug was “Mr. Miyagi,” a form of synthetic marijuana sold at the local head shop Curious Goods and throughout the southeast between Louisiana and Florida. Francis’ role in the conspiracy was through his ownership of the Retail Compliance Association, which advised retailers of synthetic marijuana on how to effectively package their products in order to side-step state and federal laws banning the sale of the substance.
According to the release:
The RCA also published instructions for these retail outlets containing guidelines on how to store, sell, and display synthetic cannabinoids in order to be consistent with the ruse that the synthetic cannabinoids were ‘not for human consumption.’ The RCA also published guidelines on how to interact with law enforcement, and the RCA acted as the synthetic cannabinoid retailers’ public representation in the event that the news media covered synthetic cannabinoids and their effects on people.
With Tuesday's plea, Francis now faces up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. His sentencing is set for May 16.
The alleged co-conspirators left standing from the original indictment handed down in September 2012 are Derrick Reece of Gainesville, Fla., criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford of Lafayette and personal injury attorney Barry Domingue of Carencro. Francis, Thursday’s release notes, was introduced to Stanford and Domingue at a meeting held in Lafayette in 2011 at the home of Curious Goods owner Richard Buswell, who pleaded guilty in the case back in July.
According to court records released at the time of Buswell’s plea, Stanford and Francis formed a relationship through their creation of a Louisiana branch of the RCA “to further the ‘not for human consumption’ misbranding of Mr. Miyagi,” which was spelled out in an employee manual authored by Domingue, who was also a “hidden” owner of Curious Goods. Records show Domingue received a three percent monthly commission from Curious Goods’ revenues.
Regarding Stanford’s role, records state:
[T]he individual franchise owners of Curious Goods ... were advised that they had to join the Louisiana RCA and pay the Louisiana RCA, through Daniel Stanford, between [$1,000] and [$5,000] per week based upon each store’s volume sales. ... [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’ allegations that he broke the law, arguing that based on federal analogue laws, the entire indictment is questionable.
The trial against the remaining defendants is set for March 31.