SPRINGFIELD, Mo. —
Twenty-one people, including two from Joplin, have been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with the sale of millions of dollars worth of a synthetic drug known as K2.
The indictments were unsealed Friday. Authorities say the 21 people are involved in the ownership and operation of 13 retail businesses, including shops in Joplin and Webb City.
Among the indicted are Austin B. Nail, 24, and DeWayne T. Barnhart, 35, both of Joplin, who are accused of participating in conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. Federal authorities identified Nail as the manager of the Mr. Nice Guy store in Joplin and Barnhart as the manager of the Mr. Nice Guy store in Webb City.
The indictments are the result of an investigation by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies into the distribution of K2, said Michael S. Oliver, supervisory assistant to the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, at a press conference Friday afternoon in Springfield.
K2, according to the attorney’s office written statement, is slang for synthetic cannabinoid products. “K2 is a mixture of plant material that has been sprayed or mixed with a synthetic chemical compound similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana,” according to the statement. In March 2011, the Drug Enforcement Agency added K2 to the controlled substances list.
“We are one of the first districts in the country to move forward on indictments at this time,” Oliver said. “We’ve taken the supply chain here, and we’ve charged each part of it. Arrests took place throughout the day today in Joplin, rural Douglas County, Laclede County, Greene County and Jasper County.”
The federal attorney’s statement said Brandon D. Franklin, 26, and his father, Douglas K. Franklin, 54, and his sister, Caitlyn E. Franklin, all of Springfield, were named in an initial indictment.
The Franklins, the statement said, committed a $6.7 million mail fraud scheme by selling and shipping, through FedEx, Kryp2nite products, which were falsely labeled as “incense” and “not for human consumption.” The Franklins are accused of making K2 and distributing it for sale to retail stores in Springfield, Joplin and elsewhere through their Springfield business, ThirdEye.
Jeremy Elliott, 40, of Rogers, Ark., and Nail, of Joplin, are charged together in two counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
Elliott is listed as the owner of the Webb City and Joplin stores.
He and Barnhart also are charged together in one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. Elliott and Barnhart are also charged together in two counts of maintaining a place for the purpose of storing and distributing a controlled substance, referring to the Mr. Nice Guy stores in Joplin and Webb City.
Joplin police Chief Lane Roberts said at the press conference that his department had been actively monitoring the local stores for a year and a half.
“It’s a complicated case and without the resources of everyone involved, this wouldn’t have been put together in the way that it has gone,” Roberts said. “To the people looking to profit from this type of action: We will shut you down. These indictments are the result of that.”
Also among the indicted were Donald P. Parrett, 40, of Springfield; Clyde Hicks, 50, of Aurora; and Lola Hall, 41, address unavailable. Parrett and Hicks own and operate DC Wholesale. Parrett owns the Head Kase stores in Springfield and Joplin. Hicks and Hall manage and assist in the store operations.
Parrett, Hicks and Hall were charged together in one count of participating in a conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.
In addition to the conspiracy, Parrett and Hall are charged together in one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. Parrett and Hicks are also charged together in two counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
Parrett and Hicks are also charged together in one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of storing and distributing a controlled substance at the Head Kase store in Springfield. Parrett, Hicks and Hall are charged together in one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of storing and distributing a controlled substance at the Head Kase store in Joplin.
The case, according to the government attorney’s statement, was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and involved local law enforcement cooperation, including the Jasper County Drug Task Force, the Jasper and Newton county sheriff’s departments, and the Joplin and Webb City police departments.