A 34 year-old man in Syracuse NY who owns 12 smoke shops (also called head shops)was sentenced to 12 years for possessing and trying to sell illegal synthetic drugs in his stores.
John Tebbetts pleaded guilty in December 2012 to felony charges of possessing synthetic drugs that are very similar in composition to controlled substances. He also pleaded guilty to money laundering. His chain of smokeshops in NY and MN were closed in 2012 when there was a federal crackdown on synthetic drugs.
He also will have three years of supervised release after he serves his prison time. In a plea agreement, he got 87 months in prison and a fine of $300,000. He also agreed to give up six vehicles.
Tebbetts also is facing charges in NY state for not paying taxes and violating labeling laws. The trial for those charges will occur later this year in NY state court.
About Federal Drug Trafficking
The distribution of illegal drugs is taken very seriously at the federal level. Usually these cases involve traditional narcotics, such as pot, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. However, the feds also are starting to focus more on illegal synthetic drugs.
Drug trafficking and distribution is a serious felony, and as this case shows, is treated much more seriously than simple possession.
Note that drug distribution and trafficking charges also can apply to prescription drugs and painkillers too. In more recent years, the feds have also focused a great deal on crackdowns on illegal distribution of prescription pills, such as various opiates.
The amount of prison time you do on these serious federal drug charges depends upon the type of drug and the amount you had in your possession. Also, you can get a longer sentence if you are caught with large amounts of illegal drugs at the US border, or were caught giving them out in a school zone. Your criminal history also is a major factor in the length of your prison sentence.
Federal punishment for drug distribution can include the following:
Prison time: Even a first time trafficking offender can get a prison sentence of at least a year. Even a life sentence is possible for a repeat offender in some cases.
Fines: Some fines can be as much as $10 million.
Probation: This is what occurred in the above case. It normally occurs in a plea bargain, where you agree to plead guilty on reduced charges.
Mandatory minimum sentence: In some cases, a convicted drug trafficker will face a minimum mandatory sentence of at least five years.