On May 4, the Acting United States Attorney in Missouri, Tom Larson, announced a guilty plea in a major federal synthetic cannabinoid case. Sheila Marie Nawaz, like others caught in the same case, pleaded guilty to mail fraud. She admitted mailing close to 2,500 packages of legal cannabinoids to locations in the United States. The report included proceeds of over $800,000 through her self-described “aroma therapy” or “potpourri” company called eComm Organix.
Nawaz held the title of president of the above “novelty items” company where she purchased 179,169 grams of synthetic cannabinoids for resale. One of the companies she routinely relied on as a supplier belonged to her husband, a co-defendant in the multi-conspirator, multi-state investigation. Her husband, Raja Amer Nawaz, owned MOJO Distribution—a cannabinoid wholesale company. She also purchased from Butler-Whayne Industries, LLC. Her connections with wholesalers and likely the connection with her husband granted the defendant access to grams of synthetic cannabinoids for an average of $4.50 each.
She resold these to buyers throughout the United States, via USPS, at enough of a markup to contribute significantly to the $6.6 million conspiracy. Bank records confirmed that eComm Organix bought $58,150.00 worth of synthetic cannabinoids between February 2014 and April 2014. Also that she paid $3.50 per gram. That price, however, was not the price she admitted to in the deal wherein the prosecution only requested agreement with the $4.50 price. Bank records also revealed her gross proceeds of $806,260.50.
The majority of the sales came from entities in Missouri. Some of the buyers ordered from her for their own distribution and some ordered for processional use. Other “novelty item” stores in Missouri—and now in the lengthy indictment with Nawaz—sold her products. They often directly communicated with her and paid via MoneyGram or Western Union money orders.
She sold 5F-APINACA; 5F-PB-22; AB-PINACA; XLR-11; FUB-PB-22; FUBIMINA; NM-2201; 5F-AMB; UR-144; THJ-2201; AB-FUBINACA; FUB-144; and AB-CHIMINACA, “all of which were intended for human consumption as a drug,” court documents explained. At the time of these charges, the majority of them were legal, technically. Marijuana is a Schedule I substance and the analog law could technically apply to synthetic cannabinoids. There are few, if any, cases where law enforcement took that route, often because subjective feelings are not easily proven. Likewise, the structures are not immediately identifiable as analogs of THC or any other cannabinoid in the marijuana plant.
Her problem, the document continued was that she did not label the drugs with “adequate directions for use.” To cover their bases, prosecutors added that labeling “had false and misleading information in that they were labeled in a manner indicating they were not for human consumption when, in fact, the drugs were intended for human consumption.” Furthermore, the documents detailed, Nawaz labeled them as “not for human consumption,” ”incense,” “aromatherapy” or “potpourri” in an effort to “entice” buyers that sought a “legal high.”
As a class C felony, mail fraud’s maximum sentencing is 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised released.