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.