Pair face federal drug charges after huge ‘spice’ manufacturing operation busted

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Synthetic cannabinoids aka spice, like this package of Scooby Snax, were being illegally manufactured in NH.
Synthetic cannabinoids aka spice, like this package of Scooby Snax, were being illegally manufactured in NH.

CONCORD, NH – Two men who were responsible for distributing large quantities of unlawful synthetic cannabinoid products, aka “spice,” have entered guilty pleas in federal court, announced United States Attorney John P. Kacavas.

On March 31, 2015, Kyle Hurley, 32, pleaded guilty to the following charges: participation in a conspiracy to distribute; and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 14, 2015. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

On February 12, 2015, Robert Costello, 71, pleaded guilty to the following charges: conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce with the intent to commit a drug trafficking crime; and to traveling in interstate commerce with the intent to commit a drug trafficking crime. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 27, 2015. He faces up to five years in prison on each charge.

Hurley and Costello were arrested on March 28, 2014, after they arranged to deliver more than one ton of synthetic cannabinoid products to undercover law enforcement officers. The synthetic cannabinoid products contained AB-FUBINACA, an illegal controlled substance. Hurley and Costello manufactured and distributed synthetic cannabinoids that were sold in packages bearing a variety of brand names, including “Scooby Snax,” “Bizarro,” “Toxic Blue Magic,” and “Caution Platinum.”

These products, which were then sold in convenience stores and at other locations around the state, contained chemicals that are unlawful controlled substances. Undercover law enforcement officers first began purchasing the unlawful products at convenience stores in Hooksett and Londonderry. Thereafter, they were introduced to Costello, who had been providing the products to the convenience stores.

The undercover officers then arranged to acquire quantities of synthetic cannabinoids directly from Costello. When the undercover officers expressed an interest in purchasing larger quantities, Costello introduced them to his source of supply, Hurley, who agreed to supply the undercover officers with large quantities of synthetic cannabinoids.

After arranging a purchase of approximately 15 kilograms of synthetic cannabinoids from Hurley and Costello on March 18, 2014, the undercover officers then arranged the one-ton transaction, which led to the arrest of Hurley and Costello on March 28, 2014. Following the arrests, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Costello’s residence in Lawrence, Mass. A shed at the residence was being used to package synthetic cannabinoids. Among the items seized were approximately 46 kilograms of packaged synthetic cannabinoids, as well as approximately 24 kilograms of bulk synthetic cannabinoids, empty packages, shipping documents, scales, heat sealers, and flavorings.

A search warrant was executed at a garage on a property in Seabrook that belonged to a relative of Hurley. Among the items seized were 16 trash bags each containing 15-kilograms of synthetic cannabinoid products, two trash bags containing approximately 100 packages of synthetic cannabinoids, 28 boxes containing empty packages, scales, empty acetone containers, and shipping materials.

In total approximately 225 kilograms of bulk synthetic cannabinoids were seized.

A search warrant was also executed at a location in Epping where the synthetic cannabinoids were being manufactured. Among the items located were a cement mixer that was used to manufacture the products, approximately 48 empty 5-gallon drums of acetone, empty chemical containers with AB-FUBINACA residue, three garbage bags containing approximately six kilograms of bulk synthetic cannabinoids, thousands of empty synthetic cannabinoid packages, and approximately 27 kilograms of packaged synthetic cannabinoids. The investigation is ongoing.

In the summer of 2014 Manchester Police responded to several reports of spice overdoses. Gov. Maggie Hassan eventually declared a state of emergency of the sale of this synthetic drug as a public health threat.

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad led the investigation in collaboration with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Homeland Security Investigations. The investigators also received the invaluable assistance of DEA-NH/HIDTA and DEA’s Air Wing, the New Hampshire and Massachusetts State Police, the U.S. Marshal Service, Portsmouth Police Department, Somersworth Police Department, Kingston, Police Department, the Dover Police Department, and the York and Kittery, Maine, Police Departments. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney John J. Farley.


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About Carol Robidoux 5363 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.