DENVER (AP) – Three men indicted in Denver for allegedly distributing and buying synthetic marijuana will remain in federal custody over the weekend, a magistrate judge ruled Thursday.
The three suspects – James Johnson, Orlando Martinez and Donald Creager III – were arrested in Colorado as part of a nationwide crackdown on so-called spice. They made brief appearances in federal court and will return next week, when a judge will decide whether to hold them further. Six other people indicted by a Denver grand jury on charges of conspiracy and drug distribution were arrested in other states.
They include John Bowen of Las Vegas and Daniel Bernier of Cocoa Beach, Florida. Prosecutors say they ran companies in Florida and Colorado that imported chemicals from China to make spice and sold it under various brand names to smoke shops in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Alaska, Ohio, Georgia and Illinois as well as Colorado.
Bowen was arrested in Las Vegas and appeared Wednesday before a magistrate judge who ordered him detained pending his transfer in custody to Colorado. It wasn’t immediately clear if Bowen or Bernier have lawyers yet.
Prosecutors say Johnson, of Castle Rock, was a salesman for the company, originally called Heart of Asia. Creager was a wholesaler who gave spice to Martinez, who marketed and sold it in his retail store, according to the indictment. Among their products is a smokable version of synthetic pot, which prosecutors said is a first.
The judge said Martinez did not meet the financial standards for a public defender, and an attorney representing him in a state case declined to comment. A public defender had not been assigned to Johnson, and Creager’s attorney, David Parrish, declined to comment.
In one month alone, the leafy mixture poisoned more than 200 people in Colorado and killed at least one, a 15-year-old boy. Authorities said illnesses in Georgia and Nebraska last summer were also linked to synthetic marijuana.
In addition to the nine people indicted in Colorado, federal agents made more than 150 arrests and served about 200 warrants in connection with the synthetic drug crackdown.
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