Spice boys get 20 years

The former owner of Psychedelic Shack, Charles Burton Ritchie, and Pensacola filmmaker and former Pensacola Chamber board member Ben Galecki were sentenced Wednesday to 20 years each in federal prison for crimes committed in connection with the manufacture of synthetic cannabinoid products (also known as “spice”).

“Charles Burton Ritchie and Benjamin Galecki operated a nationwide criminal enterprise, selling dangerous drugs worth millions of dollars that contained illegal ingredients imported from China,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in a press release.

On July 3, 2019, following a ten-day federal jury trial, Ritchie, who had moved to Park City, Utah, and Galecki were found guilty of 24 counts, including operating a continuing criminal enterprise, manufacturing and possessing with the intent to distribute controlled substance analogs, and money laundering, among other related charges.

“Ritchie and Galecki benefited greatly at the detriment of our community and others by putting illegal drugs on the streets and profiting from it,” said Special Agent in Charge Tara Sullivan, IRS Criminal Investigation. “IRS Criminal Investigation is proud to serve on the side of justice to clean up the streets.”

According to court documents and evidence presented during trial, from March 21 to July 25, 2012, Ritchie and Galecki owned and managed Zencense Incenseworks, a company that manufactured smokable synthetic cannabinoid products and marketed and sold them as “potpourri,” “incense,” or “aromatherapy.”

Ritchie and Galecki rented a warehouse in Las Vegas for the sole purpose of manufacturing these synthetic products, which contained the dangerous chemical XLR-11 — a controlled substance analogue. At the Las Vegas warehouse, a Zencense employee would mix XLR-11 with acetone and liquid flavoring, and then apply the chemical mixture to dried plant material. Next, the employee would mail the compounded mixture to Ritchie and Galecki in Pensacola, where other workers would place the spice into small retail bags.

The defendants sold their products— with names such as “Bizarro,” “Orgazmo,” “Headhunter,” and “Defcon 5 Total Annihilation”—to smoke shops across the United States. From June 1 to July 25, 2012, Ritchie and Galecki were responsible for manufacturing and distributing approximately 4,000 pounds of spice, and they made approximately $1.61 million selling XLR-11 spice manufactured in Nevada.

In two separate cases that were transferred to the District of Nevada, the defendants were each sentenced for money laundering and unlawful monetary transactions. Ritchie received nine years in federal prison for charges brought in the Southern District of Alabama and nine years in federal prison for charges brought in the Eastern District of Virginia. Galecki received eight years in federal prison for charges brought in the Southern District of Alabama and eight years in federal prison for charges brought in the Eastern District of Virginia.

All sentences will run concurrent to each other. Additionally, the defendants were ordered to forfeit approximately $2.5 million as a result of their illegal enterprise in the District of Nevada.

Read DOJ announcement.


1 thought on “Spice boys get 20 years

  1. Society is not safer or better off because these guys are locked up. I knew Burton. He really did contact Federal Agencies and ask if he could do what he did and be legal and they told him there was nothing illegal about the product he sold.
    The hypocrisies in society and our laws in comparison to Burton’s situation blows my mind. When people abuse alcohol, why aren’t alcohol distributors and manufacturers liable when drunks kill others or themselves? With people abusing alcohol or huffing paint or eating Tide pods or whatever, society thinks people need to take responsibility for their own choices and their own behaviours. In this situation it is blame the manufacturer and the distributor for selling a product that was legal.
    The entire premise of these cases against Burton and Benjamin Galecki is based in the courts not allowing chemistry experts to testify about the spice they sold and that, as far as I know, is the only reason other charges are described as criminal.
    Burton wasn’t hiding nefariously and he worked with government to abide by our laws. He was a successful businessman, a family man who helped lots of people and created jobs. Yes he ran a head shop that also sold clothing and offered tattooing and all kinds of nicknacks and he did it legally working within our Laws because he was a capitalist and there was a market for what he had for sale.
    I’m all for having regulated capitalism in our society but ignoring and not allowing the testimony of experts to sway the outcome of a trial or trials is not regulating capitalism, it’s a witch hunt.

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