Pensacola filmmakers indicted for Pensacola and South Alabama spice operations

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama last week indicted Pensacola filmmakers Ben Galecki and Burton Ritchie, who are also facing indictments in Nevada and Virginia.

According to court papers, Galecki and Ritchie owned and operated a Pensacola-based company, ZIW (also known as Zencense), that manufactured and distributed synthetic drugs–generally referred to as “spice,” “incense,” or “potpourri.”

In late 2012, the federal government alleges that the pair sold the product line to Anthony Nottoli but Galecki and Ritchie continued to participate in the operations and receive funds from Nottoli’s company, ZenBio. In December 2012, ZenBio’s call center moved to Robertsdale, Ala.

Last year, I reported that Crystal Henry, president of The Psychedelic Shack (which Ritchie once owned), and Nottoli both pled guilty in separate cases involving the illegal sales of spice.

According to a June 2014 DOJ release, Henry and her co-conspirators manufactured and distributed at least 20 tons of products containing the chemical compound XLR11. The products, which were actually smokable synthetic cannabinoids (SSC)—commonly referred to as “spice,” were marketed potpourri under names such as “Bizarro,” “Sonic Zero,” “Neutronium” and “Orgazmo.”

From Dec. 1, 2012 through April 30, 2013, ZenBio took in over $29.6 million, according to June 2014 release.

The October 2015 court documents allege that Galecki, Burton and others also moved the spice manufacturing operation from Pensacola to California in October 2012.

On May 15, 2014, Nottoli pled guilty in California to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and one count of causing at least 24 tons of misbranded smokable synthetic cannabinoids (SSC) to be introduced into interstate commerce.

The new indictment charges Galecki and Ritchie with mail fraud, including mailing of chemicals from China to the U.S.; delivery of manufactured synthetic drugs from Pensacola to Mobileand elsewhere by FedEx; and the use of commercial interstate carriers to deliver finished product from Florida and from California to head shops, tobacco shops, pipe shops, and adult novelty stores.

They are also charged with conspiring with Henry and others to “knowingly engage and attempt to engage, in monetary transactions, by, through and to financial institutions, affecting interstate and foreign commerce, in criminally derived property of a value greater than $10,000…”

Galecki and Ritchie are also charged with misbranding their products and misleading the FDA. According to court documents, they and others falsely referred to their synthetic drug as “spice,” “incense,” or “potpourri”…when, in fact, such products were synthetic drugs intended for consumption in order to obtain a physiological effect of a “high.” They are also charged with wire fraud.

If Galecki and Ritchie are convicted, they will forfeit cars and residences that are listed in the indictment. Ritchie will have a monetary judgment against him of $13.76 million; Galecki $3.47 million.